New global survey: Misinformation online leaves girls fearing for their safety

October 5, 2021

False information online has left one in five girls (20%) feeling physically unsafe, according to The Truth Gap, a new report by Plan International.

The research includes a landmark survey of more than 26,000 girls and young women from 26 countries, which also found that exposure to lies and mistruths are having a profound impact on how they engage with issues ranging from COVID-19 to politics. Plan International USA is urging the Biden administration to ensure online freedom and protection from violence for girls by committing to convene a National Task Force on Online Harassment and Abuse to tackle this crisis, because girls have the right to be online AND safe.

Please join us and sign the girls’ petition to rally support for — and ensure they are represented on — this critical issue.

“Being online opens up opportunities for girls to learn and connect, but being online is intrinsically dangerous for us as misinformation/disinformation continues to add back more barriers,” said Rohini, age 18, a co-author of the petition and a Plan Youth Advisory Board member.

In the first large-scale global study to examine the gendered impact of misinformation and disinformation online, 86% of girls and young women think it has had a negative impact on their lives.

One in three girls report that false information is affecting their mental health, leaving them feeling stressed, worried and anxious.

More than a quarter (28%) of those surveyed have been led to believe a myth or “fake fact” about COVID-19, and one in four (25%) have questioned whether to get vaccinated against the virus.

One in five (19%) say mistruths have led them to distrust election results, while 18% have stopped engaging in politics or current affairs all together as a result.

“The internet shapes girls’ opinions about themselves and the issues they care about. Our research makes clear that the spread of false information online is dangerous. It affects girls’ mental health and it’s yet another obstacle holding them back from engaging in public life,” said Shanna Marzilli, Interim CEO of Plan International USA.

The survey found that Facebook was the social media platform that girls believe to have the most misinformation and disinformation, selected by 65% of respondents, followed by TikTok, WhatsApp and YouTube — all at 27%.

According to the Biden campaign, the national task force will be charged with developing cutting-edge strategies and recommendations for how federal and state governments, social media

companies, schools and other public and private entities can get to the root of online harassment and abuse.

Sign the girls’ petition now!

For more information or interviews, please contact:

Robin Costello Senior Director, Public Engagement & Advocacy Email: [email protected] planusa.org

Mobile: 401-829-2796

NOTES TO EDITORS

Research for The Truth Gap — how information and disinformation online affect the lives, learning and leadership of girls and young women — was carried out in 33 countries. This includes a survey of over 26,000 girls and young women aged 15 to 24 in 26 countries, conducted by Ipsos and GeoPoll on behalf of Plan International between February 5 to March 19, 2021, and an additional series of 22 in-depth interviews across 18 countries.

Ipsos and GeoPoll surveyed girls in Brazil, Canada, Colombia, U.S, UK, France, Germany, Finland, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Australia, Nepal, Jordan, Ecuador, El Salvador, Peru, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Togo and Zambia.

About Plan International USA

Powered by supporters, Plan International USA partners with adolescent girls, young women and children around the world to overcome oppression and gender inequality, providing the support and resources that are unique to their needs and the needs of their communities, ensuring they achieve their full potential with dignity, opportunity and safety. Founded in 1937, Plan is an independent development and humanitarian organization that is active in more than 80 countries.

For more information, please visit PlanUSA.org.

Plan International USA

Your contribution is tax deductible.

Your gift to Plan International USA will be used where needed most, to help create sustainable change and address the root causes of poverty and inequality. Donations can support programs, innovation, and infrastructure required to deliver our programs to girls and children worldwide, in areas such as protection, education, health, sanitation, disaster relief and economic empowerment.