Africa: Women Bear Brunt of Online Abuse As World Goes Digital in Pandemic

Women bear the brunt of digital abuse – threatened with rape and exploited for porn – as the coronavirus pandemic drives ever more people online, media experts said on Wednesday.

Through salacious claims and viral memes, Brazilian journalist Patricia Campos Mello said she has repeatedly faced attack online for reporting on the Brazil government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

“Thousands of memes have circulated on the internet which my face appears in pornographic montages,” Mello told the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual event, Trust Conference, held online this year due to the pandemic.

“(People) calling me a prostitute and saying that I offer sex in exchange for stories. I get messages from people saying I deserve to be raped.”

Women’s rights campaigners worldwide have warned of an increase in online abuse such as revenge porn as COVID-19 confines many people to stay home in front of a screen.

Rape threats, fake porn – virtual reality for women as COVID-19 turns the world ever more digital

Girls as young as eight have also been subject to abuse, with one in five young women quitting or reducing their use of social media, according to a recent survey by girls’ rights group Plan International.

The International Women’s Media Foundation said 58% of nearly 600 female journalists interviewed in 2018 had been threatened or harassed in person, and one in 10 had received death threats.

This came as no surprise to India-based journalist Rana Ayyub, who has featured in a fake porn video circulated to government officials and has received numerous death threats.