Meedan, a technology not-for-profit organisation, has been announced as one of the grantees of the Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) Knowledge for Action to End Violence Against Women and Violence Against Children Research Grant 2023.
It received the grant for its project titled 'Gendered disinformation: Deepening perspectives and designing responses'.
The project will investigate gendered disinformation in the South Asian cyberspace which targets women, trans and non binary people, as these campaigns run false, misogynistic and sexualised disinformation to discredit and malign these groups.
This kind of disinformation is often used to silence or marginalise said groups and adds hurdles to their ability to safely and freely participate in discourse and public spaces.
With an increasing number of smartphone users and cheap internet, rural India has seen a rise in people on social media. However, this broader availability of information has also resulted in heightened susceptibility to pervasive gender-based disinformation.
Most fact-checking organisations or technologies focus on urban media settings and often tend to miss the gender angle. There is a strong need for them to focus on non-English speaking, low-income people, especially those from underserved areas.
“By highlighting these issues, we hope to change that. Our project will help advance understanding of the online spread of gendered disinformation and design responses to counter it in the region.”Sneha Alexander, Meedan's Program Manager for the Asia-Pacific Region
For this project, Meedan has partnered with organisations involved in fact-checking, digital safety and feminist reporting such as The Quint and Chambal Media in India and Digital Rights Foundation in Pakistan.
The objective of the project will be to define, identify, document, and annotate a dataset of gendered disinformation in online spaces while creating case studies to build awareness and develop counter strategies.
Meedan's Program Director, Network and Training, Shalini Joshi elaborated on the project. According to Joshi, not enough work is being done to address the problem in the APAC region.
"The aim of our project is to build a high-quality dataset and case studies of gendered disinformation in online spaces. We'll also apply machine learning techniques to develop models to identify gendered disinformation online to further contribute to a healthier internet," Joshi said.
‘Hope To Fill Gaps’: Partners Speak on the Project
Kritika Goel, Deputy Editor of The Quint's fact-checking vertical also acknowledged the limited availability of quality research in this topic in the Asia-Pacific region, adding that this project will help understand and define "what constitutes gender-based disinformation."
"By focusing on this, we intend to come up with strategies to not just mitigate it but also highlight the importance of providing safer public spaces (online and offline) to all genders."Kritika Goel, Deputy Editor, Fact-Check, The Quint
Nighat Dad, the Executive Editor of Pakistan's Digital Rights Foundation discussed the need to understand how this kind of disinformation is produced and shared.
“Due to a lack of systemic documentation and the ephemeral nature of digital spaces, we cannot understand the process by which gendered disinformation is produced and disseminated. This project hopes to fill that gap through a collaborative and regional approach," Dad said.
Chambal Media's Director Priya Thuvassery spoke on the project's outcome could bring changes to digital society.
“We believe this project will leverage an established partnership between networks across borders and contribute to changes that make a safe and inclusive digital society where individuals can reap the benefits of technology."Priya Thuvassery, Director, Chambal Media
The Sexual Violence Research Initiative (SVRI) is a global research network that aims to advance research on sexual violence and generate new knowledge on prevention and response strategies.
SVRI received 312 grant proposals this year from Africa, Asia, East and Central Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean.
This grant is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund, and aims to contribute to the prevention and response of violence against women (VAW), violence against children (VAC) and other forms of violence driven by gender inequality.