Press release

PM to lead the fight for women and girls at the G7

Theresa May to lobby world leaders and industry to protect women and girls against vile online harassment.

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Women and girls who are subject to vile abuse and harassment online must be offered much better protection, the Prime Minister will say today.

At the G7 in Canada, Theresa May will tell world leaders that they must work with industry to ensure women can use the web without fear of being subjected to online rape threats, harassment, cyberstalking, blackmail, vile comments and more.

Acknowledging that platforms have made serious efforts in using advanced technologies, algorithms and protocols to tackle online terrorist propaganda, she will press the case for that work to now be extended to end abuse targeted specifically at women and girls.

The Prime Minister will note that in the first quarter of this year, Facebook took action against 1.9 million pieces of Daesh and Al-Qaeda content, a nearly twofold increase over the previous quarter – and she will call for a similar upswing in targeted action to tackle online violence against women and girls.

The Prime Minister will encourage companies to do more to quickly identify and take down online content promoting or depicting violence against women and girls, including illegal violent pornography and rape threats on social media platforms.

She will call for internet companies to use their cutting edge technology such as innovative data analytics to identify and remove adverts or websites linked to people trafficking, where sadly women and girls make up the majority of victims trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

She will also tell G7 leaders to look at how they can use legislation to deal with the perpetrators of such abuse.

Earlier this year, the UK Government announced plans to introduce new, world-leading laws to tackle the full range of online harms and set clear responsibilities for social media companies to keep UK citizens safe. Potential areas where the Government will legislate include a mandatory social media code of practice, transparency reporting and online advertising. A White Paper will be published later this year setting out details of the legislation to be brought forward.

Speaking at the G7 today, the Prime Minister is expected to say:

We know that technology plays a crucial part in advancing gender equality and empowering women and girls, but these benefits are being undermined by vile forms of online violence, abuse and harassment.

What is illegal offline is illegal online and I am calling on world leaders to take serious action to deal with this, just like we are doing in the UK with our commitment to legislate on online harms such as cyber-stalking and harassment.

Online violence against women and girls should not be separated from offline violence and the technology companies who are making welcome progress in banning and removing extremist content must use the same methods to prioritise tackling this unacceptable and deeply worrying rising trend.

Amnesty International UK published research in March looking at the online abuse of women, which found that:

  • one in five women in the UK having suffered online abuse or harassment
  • almost half of women said the abuse or harassment they received was sexist or misogynistic, with 27% saying it threatened sexual or physical assault
  • 55% saying that they experienced anxiety, stress or panic attacks as a result
  • only 23% of Facebook and 19% of Twitter users rated the platforms’ response in addressing online abuse or harassment as adequate, versus 41% and 43% who considered it inadequate

A 2016 Girlguiding survey also found that:

  • 49% of girls aged 11-21 say fear of abuse online makes them feel less able to share their views
  • 25% of girls ages 11-21 have experienced cyberbullying
  • 50% of girls aged 11-21 think that sexism is worse online than offline
  • 23% of girls aged 11-21 have had threatening things said about them on social media

And the 2017 Committee on Standards in Public Life report identified the scale of the problem of online abuse against female MPs, noting that no female MP active on Twitter was free from online intimidation.

The Prime Minister’s comments will come at a G7 session specifically discussing empowering and supporting women and girls around the world.

She will also turn her focus to the education of women and girls, telling G7 leaders that it is a devastating waste of potential that 130 million girls around the world aren’t getting the vital education and skills they deserve.

To help, she will announce new UK support to help over 400,000 girls in developing countries with the most urgent need, pledging £187 million of funding to support 427,779 girls in getting 12 years of quality education.

This new UK support will play a transformative role in lifting communities and societies out of poverty in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Nepal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, enabling girls to continue their education so they can fulfil their potential and play a significant role in their communities, economies and political institutions.

Today’s announcement builds on the announcement made at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April, where the Prime Minister pledged £212 million to get almost one million girls in developing countries across the Commonwealth learning.

The Prime Minister will say:

I am a passionate advocate of improving education for girls around the world.

It is the right thing to do and it is in the global interest. That’s why the UK is leading the way in changing views, opening up opportunities for girls and bringing parity to the classroom.

Published 8 June 2018