Sexist hate speech against young girls is spreading through comments on news reports
Sexist hate speech against young girls is spread through comments on news reports on social media, which are fertile ground for the development of gender-based malicious and disturbing content. Such content is usually created in response to the news reports, so the role of the media and their reporting is significant for their prevention, and especially the regulation of comments on news reports on social media.
This is shown by the analysis of gender-based content “Sexist hate speech against young girls“, developed by the Institute of Communication Studies. The research analyzed over 1,500 comments on news reports on Facebook that reported on two cases – the two missing girls in Chair and the two missing girls in Centar, between March and May 2023. These cases were selected because of the content of the comments they provoked on social media.
According to the analysis, the sexist hate speech directed towards girls is based on personal opinions and speculations that provoke the imagination of the audience, and the content of the comments focused on looking for a “culprit” for the situation, from where the discussion and negative narratives develop further. The analysis shows that the audience on social media is prone to comments based on gender stereotypes that offend and sexualize young girls, comments about using physical violence against the girls as a disciplinary measure, which perpetuates gender-based violence, and homophobic comments with a violent tone about sexual orientation that can also encourage and result in violence in society. Hence, media outlets that do not have a policy to regulate such negative remarks in the comments section of the news reports contribute to the spread of disturbing content, as well as to the additional creation of new ones. Malicious content and gender-based hate speech seriously affect the development and future life of young girls, as well as the high level of intolerance in society.
All of this points to the significant role of the media. Journalists must be careful in the wording of the headlines, as well as the full report, when it comes to sensitive cases, as this may influence readers to draw superficial conclusions. The media should establish internal policies and persons responsible for regulating comments with negative content, in order to prevent their spread. Also, they should publish more content that promotes gender equality and raises awareness of protection from gender-based violence, identity differences and the need for inclusivity in society. Young girls, on the other hand, should be informed about the negative effects, how to recognize and how to deal with sexist hate speech. Given that the creators of malicious content are not sanctioned, it is necessary to increase the capacities of the institutions for recognition and action in such cases.
The media analysis was made in the framework of the project “Fact-Based Journalism for Raising Awareness and Countering Disinformation in the Media Space in North Macedonia”, which is implemented with the support of the British Embassy in Skopje.
You can find the analysis in Macedonian, Albanian and English languages on the following link.