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UN Human Rights Council 47th session

Item 3: Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression

1 July 2021

Oral statement

Madame President,

The Association for Progressive Communications welcomes the report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, in particular its recognition of gendered disinformation online and the recommendation to states and companies to confront it, as well as to give special attention to its consequences in the real world.

The weaponisation of disinformation against women in public spaces has long been pointed out as a form of gender-based violence online. It is important, however, to recognise it as a specific phenomenon. Gendered disinformation is a subset of online gendered abuse that uses false or misleading gender and sex-based narratives against women, aimed at deterring them from participating in the public sphere. It combines three defining characteristics of online disinformation: falsity, malign intent, and coordination.

Gendered disinformation targets not only women, but feminist struggles and gendered discourse. In practice, it is used to silence; to push women to self-censorship; and to restrict their civic space.

The situation is even more striking from an intersectionality lens. Female political leaders and activists from racial, ethnic, religious or other minority groups are targeted far more often than their white colleagues.

We urge the Council to remind both states and social media companies of their duties in relation to international human rights law. We call on the Special Rapporteur to continue to work to refine her guidance on this matter and to provide advice and technical assistance to states and companies to comply with her report’s recommendations.