Online violence against girls and women to be included in Online Safety Bill
Wednesday 9 February
- This online harm comes in the form of sexist comments (35%), cyberflashing (22%), sexual harassment (20%), catfishing (20%), pressure to share nude pictures (16%) and cyberstalking (13%)
- 94% said they experienced negative emotions as a result with 76% saying it made them feel anxious, angry, scared, depressed or less confident in themselves
- 93% of girls and young women said there should be laws to protect against online abuse and 67% don’t think the government is doing enough to stop online violence
- Only 15% think that social media is a safe place for them
New research from Girlguiding launched in the week of Safer Internet Day has today revealed that over three-quarters (79%) of young women have experienced online harm in 2021.
Girlguiding members are meeting MPs in parliament today to call for them to tackle online violence against women and girls by explicitly including it within the Online Safety Bill.
To send their message to MPs, the charity has created a giant version of their iconic Girlguiding badge which reads: “Online harm is real harm. End it now.” which will be held by Girlguiding advocates outside parliament, on Victoria Tower Gardens.
Their message comes as a survey commissioned by Girlguiding shows the true extent of online violence against girls and young women with girls as young as thirteen experiencing sexism and misogyny online. Over a third (35%) have received sexist comments, 22% have experienced cyberflashed and some experienced sexual harassment (20%), catfishing (20%) and cyberstalking (13%). The data shows the devastating impact this has on girls and young women’s confidence, ambition and mental health. Over three-quarters (76%) said they felt anxious, angry, scared, depressed or less confident in themselves as a result.
The tactics online abusers use are getting more sophisticated too. The ease at which people can access artificial intelligence (AI) has meant that deepfake video and imagery has now not only affected those in the public eye but normal girls online too. Almost 1 in 5 (16%) were pressured to share naked pictures of themselves and 4% found that their images were made nude using editing software.
Girls and young women told Girlguiding this needs to change: 64% believe the government has a responsibility to help reduce the spread of online harm and abuse with 94% saying there needs to be a specific law to help protect them.
Discussing online harm and how it affects young women in the UK, Girlguiding advocate, Francoise Labode, 22 said:
“Sadly, our statistics are not that surprising. Online harm is an issue faced by the majority of young women.
“As a young woman who has grown up with the internet, Girlguiding’s research resonates with me, I’ve seen friends receive unwelcomed comments, sexual images and messages online. I’ve seen members of my peer group very upset as a result of bullying and this needs to stop. The government needs to prioritise protecting girls and young women from online harm. Feeling safe online is imperative to the mental health, wellbeing and self-esteem of the younger generation.”
Girlguiding CEO, Angela Salt, said:
“Girlguiding believes girls and young women should be able to use the internet freely, safely and without fear. Sadly, our research highlights that there is still a long way to go before this is reality, which is why we are calling on the government to ensure violence against girls and women online, and it’s devastating impact is recognised and included within the Online Safety Bill.”
Girlguiding is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery said:
“I am pleased that players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting the work of Girlguiding in campaigning to improve the lives of girls and young women. We support Girlguiding’s ambitions to make sure girls and young women are empowered, confident and self-assured. We are glad to see Girlguiding enabling girls and young women raising their voices on this important issue.”
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Notes to Editors
Research for Safer Internet Day builds on Girlguiding’s annual Girls’ Attitudes Survey, the largest annual survey of over 2000 girls and young women aged 7-21 since 2009. In 2021, the Girls’ Attitudes Survey found that 71% of girls had experienced online harm in the last year. More statistics about online harm from the 2021 Girls’ Attitudes Survey are available https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/globalassets/docs-and-resources/research-and-campaigns/policy-briefing---online-harms.docx
Girlguiding’s full Girls’ Attitudes Survey 2021 can be read and downloaded in full. https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/globalassets/docs-and-resources/research-and-campaigns/girls-attitudes-survey-2021-report.pdf
Safer Internet Day research was provided by Savanta ComRes who interviewed 1,000 women and girls aged 13-21 online from 17th to 25th January 2022. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
The Online Safety Bill
The draft Online Safety Bill was published in May 2021 and seeks to impose duties on the providers of content-sharing platforms and search services to keep users safe as well as improve regulation by OfCom. The Bill is currently in report stage. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-online-safety-bill
In December 2021, the Joint Committee for the Online Safety Bill submitted its final report, highlighting the extent of misogyny online. Parliamentary rules stipulate the Bill should therefore return to the House of Commons for the next stage within 8 weeks. https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/8206/documents/84092/default/
In January 2022, the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee highlighted the failures of the draft Bill in tackling online violence against women and girls. https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/8609/documents/86961/default/
A petition, coordinated by the End Violence Against Women coalition and Glitch, the digital citizenship charity, calling on MPs to include VAWG in the OSB now has nearly 50,000 signatures. https://www.change.org/p/nadinedorries-the-uk-s-new-online-safety-law-must-protect-women-girls-from-online-abuse
Girlguiding is the leading charity for girls and young women in the UK, with nearly 400,000 members. With over 24,000 groups meeting weekly powered by over 80,000 volunteers, we’re active in every part of the UK offering girls and young women a space where they can be themselves, have fun, build brilliant friendships, gain valuable life skills and make a positive difference in their communities. We build girls’ confidence and raise their aspirations. We give them the chance to discover their full potential and encourage them to be a powerful force for good. We run Rainbows (5–7 years (4-7 in Ulster)), Brownies (7–10 years), Guides (10–14 years) and Rangers (14–18 years) with a youth membership of 290,000. Registered Charity No 306016. https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/
How Girlguiding is helping keep girls and young women safe online:
- The Media critic interest badge for Guides allows them to develop media literacy.
- Free Being Me, part of our Peer Education programme, helps girls increase their body confidence and challenges unhealthy beauty ideals. It encourages girls in Brownies and Guides to challenge myths and reframe the ways they think about the way they look.
- The Feel good skills builder allows girls to develop body confidence, self-esteem and resilience.
- The Breaking Free peer education resource empowers young people to enjoy their hobbies, gain the skills they’re interested in and help bring about a world where nobody feels trapped by gender stereotypes. Through this resource, they can develop assertiveness, cultural awareness and media literacy.
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