Panel 2: Gender, Disinformation and Politics
Gabrielle Bardall Ph.D. is the founder and principal of Herizon Democracy consulting group and an affiliated researcher with the Center for International Policy Studies (CIPS) at the University of Ottawa. She has worked in over 60 countries worldwide for a variety of UN agencies and international organizations, including UNDP, DPKO, UN Women, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems and the Carter Center. An advocate for women’s political rights, she has published and taught about online violence against women in politics for nearly a decade. Gabrielle holds degrees from McGill University, Sciences-Po Paris and l’Université de Montreal. She received the American Political Science Association’s Congressional Fellowship and the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Doctoral Scholarship for her work in the area of violence against women in politics.
While there is growing awareness of the alarming extent of online violence against women in politics, growing bodies of literature tend to conflate related terms. In particular, “gendered disinformation” is often viewed as one and the same with various other online harms including harassment, abuse and defamation. I situate disinformation in relation to a broader spectrum of online and offline attacks on political women. I offer insight on why we need to view gendered disinformation as a related-but-distinct phenomenon from other forms of VAWP. I explain how gendered disinformation is substantively different from online gendered violence and harassment. I also propose that there is a fine line between perpetuating common, harmful gender stereotypes and deliberate disinformation campaigns, and I offer insights on how to distinguish these related phenomena in order to better combat them. Finally, I offer reflections on the relative importance of digital hygiene vs online safety in responses to gendered disinformation.
Nina Jankowicz studies the intersection of democracy and technology in Central and Eastern Europe. She is the author of How To Lose the Information War: Russia, Fake News, and the Future of Conflict (Bloomsbury/IBTauris). Ms. Jankowicz has advised the Ukrainian government on strategic communications under the auspices of a Fulbright-Clinton Public Policy Fellowship. Her writing has been published by The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and others. She is a frequent television and radio commentator on disinformation and Russian and Eastern European affairs. Prior to her Fulbright grant in Ukraine, Ms. Jankowicz managed democracy assistance programs to Russia and Belarus at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. She received her MA in Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and her BA from Bryn Mawr College.
Nina Jankowicz, Disinformation Fellow at the Wilson Center and author of How to Lose the Information War, will discuss the recent Wilson Center report, “Malign Creativity: How Gender, Sex, and Lies are Weaponized Against Women Online.” This report strives to build awareness of the direct and indirect impacts of gendered and sexualized disinformation on women in public life, as well as its corresponding impacts on national security and democratic participation. In an analysis of online conversations about 13 female politicians across six social media platforms, totaling over 336,000 pieces of abusive content shared by over 190,000 users over a two-month period, the report defines, quantifies, and evaluates the use of online gendered and sexualized disinformation campaigns against women in politics and beyond. It also uses three in-depth interviews and two focus groups to emphasize the impacts gendered abuse and disinformation have on women’s daily lives.
Lucina Di Meco is a gender equality expert and women’s rights advocate. She’s the author of #ShePersisted. Women, Politics & Power in the New Media World, a study investigating the relationship between women in politics and social media in 30 countries. Her work has been featured on Time Magazine, The Washington Post, Politico, El Pais, The Hill and Voice of America, among others. Lucina is the co-founder of #ShePersisted Global, an initiative tackling gendered disinformation and online attacks against women in politics, by enhancing research and understanding of gendered disinformation campaigns at works; connecting a network of women leaders globally, and providing them with the tools they need to respond to online attacks, and advance regulatory solutions. Lucina has written on gendered disinformation and social media harms for The Brookings Institution, The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Council of Foreign Relations, The National Endowment for Democracy, Ms. Magazine and The Women’s Media Center, among others. Throughout her career, Lucina has worked with a wide range of international actors promoting women’s rights in the Global South, including Vital Voices, The Wilson Center, International IDEA, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, UNDP and UN Women. Lucina currently serves as Senior Director for Gender Equality at Room to Read, an international nonprofit working to end gender inequality through education; co-founder of The Gender Breakfast, a network of 150+ gender professionals in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Advisory Board Member of FundHer, an organization working to elect progressive women to State legislatures.
Lucina Di Meco will be presenting on some of the patterns of gendered disinformation, as they link to efforts to undermine women’s rights, liberal values, and democratic institutions. Lucina will be sharing some examples of gendered disinformation against women in politics and journalists from her report #ShePersisted. Women, Politics and Power in the New Media World, as well as her ongoing research on this topic. Lucina will conclude by sharing some of the most promising existing best practices advanced by civil society, women politicians and policy-makers to address this problem.