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Supporting a safer internet: Global survey of gender-based violence online

Women’s and queer voices are being silenced by harassment and targeted attacks on the internet. Online gender-based violence (GBV) takes many forms, including harassment, hacking, impersonation, surveillance/tracking, spamming, the non-consensual distribution of intimate photos and messages, and recruiting victims into violent/harmful situations. The prevalence of online GBV is an exacerbating factor in women’s digital exclusion, yet we have limited data on the extent of online GBV, and particularly on what works to prevent it.

From IDRC-funded research in Latin America, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, we have a growing body of knowledge on the profound gaps in access, use, and basic skills that are disaggregated by gender. However, in terms of security and safety, rights, participation, and expression, there is a dearth of statistically significant research on how women and LGBTQI communities experience the online world, as well as the levels of harassment and violence they face. For example, female public and political figures from around the world report disturbing levels of abuse on social media platforms. In the Global South, we only have personal accounts of attacks on women, gender-diverse, transgender, and queer populations as they navigate the digital ecosystem. Global South countries are only rarely included in public opinion polling on internet issues, in part because of lower internet penetration rates, and in part because logistical and capacity challenges increase costs. Furthermore, the fast pace of technological change and contextual differences in platforms used in different countries make it challenging to design and evaluate responses that are appropriate to multiple regions and platforms.

This initiative seeks to conduct a statistically significant global survey of people’s experiences online, with a focus on online gender-based violence and deep dives into women’s/LGBTQI+ online experiences in a set of countries in the Global South. Armed with this data, development, private sector, and government actors can better design responses to online gender-based violence by regulating online social media platforms and through education programs and legal recourse.

Project ID
Project Status
36 months
IDRC Officer
Ruhiya Seward
Total Funding
CA$ 926,020.00
Institution Country
Project Leader
Aaron Shull
The Centre for International Governance Innovation