By: Cailin Crockett and Rachel Vogelstein 

White House Gender Policy Council

This week, during the 66th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, the Biden-Harris Administration proudly launched the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse (Global Partnership), together with Australia, Denmark, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.  The Global Partnership will bring together countries, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to better prioritize, understand, prevent, and address the growing scourge of technology-facilitated gender-based violence.

An estimated 85% of women and girls globally have experienced some form of online harassment and abuse. This challenges their full and equal participation everywhere—particularly those from underrepresented and marginalized communities. Here in the United States, one in three women under the age of 35—and over half of LGBTQI+ individuals—report experiencing sexual harassment and stalking online; rates can be even higher in regions of the world where women and girls have lesser legal status, rights, and protections. 

Targeted harassment and abuse, gendered disinformation, the non-consensual distribution of intimate images and the creation of deep fakes, disproportionately affect women political leaders, activists, and journalists, too often silencing women’s voices and undermining their political and civic participation. Addressing and preventing technology-facilitated gender-based violence is not only critical to individual survivors, but also a global imperative for the defense and development of inclusive, representative democracies. 

Online harassment and abuse is a global problem that crosses borders.  That’s why the United States is working in concert with other nations— including the governments of Australia, Denmark, the Republic of Korea, Sweden, and the United Kingdom—to tackle this scourge. As members of the Global Partnership, we invite other countries and partners to join us in advancing three strategic objectives:

  1. Develop and advance shared principles. Partners will promote shared principles on preventing and addressing gender-based online harassment and abuse, emphasizing the need for greater accountability for perpetrators and platforms, and identifying this scourge as a human rights issue that can drive conflict and instability; impede individuals’ ability to exercise their right to freedom of expression; enjoy rights related to privacy; and fully and equally participate in civic, economic, and political life. 
  2. Increase programming and resources. Partners will support programs that prevent and respond to gender-based online harassment and abuse, including resources and training for civil-society organizations, journalists, and politically active women, as well as training for civil and criminal justice systems.
  3. Expand data and access to it. Partners will support the collection of data on gender-based online harassment and abuse at the national, regional, and global levels and commission research to measure its prevalence, health and mental health impact, and political and economic costs, including at the intersection of gender, race, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Partners will also emphasize the need for greater platform transparency and data sharing with civil society, researchers, and activists. 

Launching the Global Partnership delivers on a promise that President Biden made on the campaign trail to address online harassment and abuse. It also reflects the President’s decades-long leadership to stand with survivors and prevent and respond to gender-based violence wherever it occurs—including online.  When President Biden first wrote and championed the Violence Against Women Act  (VAWA) in the early 1990s, the internet was still in its infancy. Today, the internet has transformed our ability to connect and communicate and access services and support; but at the same time, social media and other online platforms are increasingly misused as tools of abuse, harassment, and exploitation. Technology-facilitated gender-based violence has also increased along with other forms of gender-based violence during COVID-19, facilitated by new and emerging technologies and rooted in entrenched gender disparities.

That’s why we are especially pleased to launch this multinational coalition during the same week in which the President signed into law the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2022, which creates historic new protections against online harassment and abuse, establishing a federal civil cause of action for victims of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images.  With this civil cause of action, President Biden has said, “we’re giving survivors real resources against abuse [from] ex-partners and stalkers who seek to humiliate and hurt them.”  

As a complement, the reauthorized VAWA also creates new grant programs to help state, Tribal, and local criminal legal systems respond to cybercrimes–including cyberstalking and online violence from an intimate partner. This law helps bring our response to gender-based violence into the 21st century. 

The Global Partnership reaffirms our commitment to dismantle gender inequalities—both on and offline. As President Biden often says, we must shift the culture so that violence against women and girls is no longer tolerated. In today’s digital world, gender-based harassment and abuse cannot be accepted as the price women, girls, and LGBTQI+ individuals must pay to be online.  

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Read more about the Global Partnership: https://www.state.gov/2022-roadmap-for-the-global-partnership-for-action-on-gender-based-online-harassment-and-abuse/

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