As part of a National Endowment for Democracy program, NDI commissioned Demos to undertake a study on state-aligned gendered disinformation. In this first major study into the threat to democracy caused by state-aligned gendered disinformation (SAGD), the report outlines a new framework for understanding how disinformation is being used online to manipulate perceptions of women’s political leadership thereby excluding, silencing or trivialising their potential and their contribution. Using an analysis of Twitter data, the two case studies for this report were Poland and the Philippines. The research found evidence of disinformation campaigns which attacked women in politics and used gendered narratives to undermine women who oppose or criticise the state. Part of the study’s findings include that online spaces are being systematically weaponised against women in politics and public life. Attacks on women which use hateful language, rumour and gendered stereotypes manage to combine personal attacks with political motivations, making online spaces dangerous places for women. Left unchecked, this phenomenon of gendered disinformation, spread by state and non-state actors, poses a serious threat to women’s equal political participation and through what NDI has termed ‘the gateway effect’, can cross-over from the online space to cause lethal and sometimes fatal physical outcomes for politically-active women.
Authors: Ellen Judson, Asli Atay, Alex Krasodomski-Jones, Rose Lasko-Skinner, Josh Smith