May 2, 2024 | The Guardian

Australian campaign attempts to tackle misogyny in online spaces, a “deeply rooted” problem

In an effort to “counter-influence” online misogynistic content in Australia, the federal government campaign Stop it at the Start will launch a new phase in June, including ad campaigns and a new tool for parents. The ads will urge parents to discuss harmful online misogyny with their children. While the tool will allow them to navigate social media feeds like the ones available to their kids on mainstream platforms, chatrooms and message boards, as well as traditional advertising streams, with a focus on controversial influencers spreading stereotypes or condoning violence against women. ISD OSINT Senior Analyst Elise Thomas spoke to the Guardian about how misogynistic “incel” and alt-right content is reaching young men and boys online. However, she notes that the problem extends beyond the type of content reaching audiences to the algorithm behind it all. 

“It’s a deeply rooted problem,” Elise said. “There is risk of conflating getting the problem off your screen, with getting rid of the problem itself.” 

Elise, who co-authored ISD’s report Algorithms as a Weapon Against Women: How YouTube Lures Boys and Young Men into the ‘Manosphere’ notes that the issue is more widespread on YouTube and TikTok than on Facebook or X. The report further highlights how the algorithm fails to distinguish between underage and adult accounts viewing the content. 

“We can prevent algorithms from making the problem worse. It’s not about a focus on specific pieces of content but to think about the broader system around it, the broader algorithmic recommendation of such content.”