Girl activists will be teaming up with Instagram, in collaboration with global children’s rights and gender equality organization Plan International, to address how the platform can respond to online harassment. This will include listening sessions with a diverse group of 15 youth activists who will provide insight into their own negative experiences to policy and product teams from Instagram. Insights will also be shared with Facebook and WhatsApp as part of this initiative.

This announcement comes on International Day of the Girl and follows a landmark survey by Plan International of 14,000 girls in 22 countries, including Canada, which revealed more than half (58%) of those surveyed have been harassed or abused on social media. Amongst the list of power holders that girls want to take action to tackle abuse, social media companies top the list, followed by governments, police and civil society organizations.

“Girls in our research identified social media companies as the critical actors responsible for ensuring safety from online harassment on their platforms. This partnership with Instagram is an encouraging first step and will help ensure girls’ voices are not silenced,” said Lindsay Glassco, President and CEO of Plan International Canada.

The sessions between the youth activists and Instagram will begin this November and will provide an opportunity to hear directly from girls about their lived experiences on social media. The aim is to create a dialogue about more ways the companies can continue to invest in protecting girls from bullying and harassment. The youth participating come from BeninBrazilGermanyIndiaJapanKenyaPhilippinesSpain, UK and the US.

“Listening to girls who have experienced being harassed online is a crucial part of the process, to ensure that mechanisms being implemented to eliminate online harassment are truly effective,” said Ramandeep, 15-year-old Youth Ambassador for Plan International Canada. “We need to amplify their voices to help create solutions to this issue.”

Cindy Southworth, Head of Women’s Safety at Facebook, said: “Abuse of women on the internet is a serious problem, one we tackle in a variety of ways – through technology that identifies and removes potentially abusive content, by enforcing strict policies and by talking with experts and people experiencing harassment or abuse.”

“We know this is a particular challenge and really value the opportunity to work with Plan International and hear directly from young women affected by these issues so we can improve and ensure we are a platform where women feel safe.”

Girls around the world have written an open letter to social media companies, calling on them to create stronger and more effective ways to report abuse and harassment. This International Day of the Girl, Plan International Canada is standing with girls in their call, which includes developing better and more accessible reporting mechanisms, and stronger monitoring measures to identify and respond to cyberbullying and online harassment.

More than half of the girls surveyed in Canada say social media companies should do more to fight such issues on their platforms. Supporters of this call-to-action in Canada are encouraged to read and sign this letter, which will urge social media giants to enact significant changes and make online spaces safer for everyone.

Join Plan International Canada’s International Day of the Girl conversations online:

Hashtag: #DayoftheGirl | #FreetobeOnline 
Twitter: @PlanCanada | Facebook: @PlanCanada | Instagram: @PlanCanada