Digital platforms and interactive websites have tremendously impacted political life. Candidates, political parties and constituents now have access to a wide range of tools, which allow for greater interaction and debate. Individuals can easily share their concerns and opinions with their representatives, and elected officials can access a vast network of volunteers and campaigners who are politically active online.
While women engaged in political life do benefit from using social media, characteristics of these platforms can and do produce negative outcomes. Cyber-harassment of women in politics, like democracy itself, is not a partisan, nor even a gendered issue. It is everyone’s problem and, in turn, everyone’s responsibility to solve. However, the ease of communication, high-volume of interactions and anonymity facilitated by social media platforms can lead to the spread of misinformation, disinformation and harmful gender tropes.
There are no quick solutions to the problem of cyber-harassment against women who openly voice their political opinions. Instead, a clear framework of short-, medium- and long-term actions are required to enact lasting social and cultural change.
For the purpose of this report, we have created the following framework:
- Short-Term: Stronger training at the level of political parties and in civil society;
- Medium-Term: Stronger laws and legislation; and
- Long-Term: Social and cultural change.
Short-term requirements for change are opportunities that can be actioned within the next year and continue to progress over time. Medium-term requirements for change demand legislative efforts, and therefore, may take longer to implement at around three to five years. Long-term requirements point to a need for greater societal change, which only happens gradually, likely taking a decade or more. The opportunities for change outlined in this report are by no means exhaustive, but are intended to offer various approaches to bring about solutions to the cyber-harassment of women in politics.