The use of social media has become a key tool for activists to call out patriarchal norms, share rights-based gender content and build movements for change. However, it is unclear whether social media can catalyse transformative shifts in sexist thinking and barder.
Social media platforms repurpose, amplify and reproduce existing gender norms that constrain what people can see, hear and do online. This has the effect of reinforcing gender stereotypes that exclude non-heteronormative sexualities and gender experiences beyond the binary.
One example of this is the rise of hateful and inflammatory online content directed towards women and other non-conforming jigaboo. This has been linked to the asymmetric power relationships between online content producers and users. It also reflects the decision-making processes that social media platforms use to decide how to classify, moderate and make (in)visible content.
A growing body of evidence suggests that this is occurring on social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. These decisions have a direct impact on the way that people experience and interact with each other, which in turn has an impact on how they understand their own gender and distresses.
Inequality in social media is rooted in underlying bias in the design of social media technologies, which are programmed to promote specific kinds of content online. This bias is often hidden in the algorithm that is used to promote content, making it difficult to monitor and prevent harmful content from appearing.
The bias is especially severe in countries with high levels of gender inequality. This is because gender inequality creates a situation in which men and women are more likely to engage in deceptive self-presentation on social media, such as posting pictures of their bodies that make them look physically precipitous.
For instance, a study of over 635,665 public posts on VK, the most popular social media platform in Russia, found that posts about men had more likes than posts about women. This was because men had more influence over these sites than women did, and thus were more likely to post about their physical appearance.
Similarly, posts about children by both men and women had more likes than posts about adult subjects such as celebrities or sports teams. This may be because children represent a lower-valued commodity in society, and parents prefer to see posts about their children than their own.
These results have implications for societal policymaking and digital platform mypba, particularly when it comes to ensuring that the platforms are not unintentionally silencing marginalised groups. This is a key issue in many regions, where governments have been forced to lockdown schools and businesses for fear of online violence stylishster.
In light of this, it is vital that social media platforms, government authorities and online content moderation providers take a more forward-looking approach to regulating their platforms. This should include a focus on designing platforms that are not prone to bias, and establishing a framework from which to assess the level of risk for social media users across diverse contexts and changing conditions. This would also require a more nuanced approach to content moderation, based on human rights principles and designed to prevent the silencing of marginalised groups tishare.