Women Politicians' Online Safety in the Face of Trolls

Ruth Atim Aug. 22, 2022

As a result of their work, there has been an alarming increase in online violence directed at politicians, both men, and women.

Vote Women

As a result of their work, there has been an alarming increase in online violence directed at politicians, both men, and women. Online violence directed at women politicians, on the other hand, differs from that directed at male political activists in that its primary goal is to suppress women who participate in political life through fear, humiliation, and intimidation. In addition, the violence is becoming more severe and sexualized. It is usually caused by sexism and appears to be intended to prevent women from fully participating in politics.

Online violence is not limited to direct messages on social media, but also includes widespread violent rhetoric aimed at women politicians, ranging in severity from sexist insults to actual threats.Pollicy believes that the internet holds enormous promise for women and girls and that the design, usability, and practicability of its goods and services should reflect this. Furthermore, women leaders who are knowledgeable about a wide range of issues may be able to participate in policymaking more effectively.

The digital world is no exception to the right of all people to live in a world that respects their dignity, security, and political rights. Creating an internet that allows all people to be politically engaged is a critical step toward advancing democracy. We are all responsible for addressing the gendered attacks, including disinformation, that women face when attempting to engage online.

Online violence against women in politics is a growing threat to democracy, and it includes all types of aggression, compulsion, and intimidation aimed at keeping women out of politics just because they are women. This online behavior has political goals, like hurting or getting rid of certain women from public life, while also sending the message that women shouldn't be involved in politics in general.

To raise awareness of this issue, Pollicy launched the "Vote Women" Project, a leadership springboard for women political aspirants and incumbents that uses digital tools to empower women to pursue their civic leadership ambitions. Pollicy provides an opportunity for African leaders to collaborate and co-create emerging and catalytic content that will maximize the potential of digital skills.

Pollicy has been working to raise awareness of the violence that politically active women face, collect data on it, and build capacity among partners to mitigate its impact through digital security training since the campaign's inception.

The Chilling Effect

This online violence chills women's and girls' political goals and participation, reducing their presence and agency in politics and public life. All of the women politicians in this study use social media, and half have reported being attacked for their opinions, prompting nearly 20% of them to stop publishing their opinions. This online abuse is increasingly becoming part of deliberate political strategies used by illiberal and anti-democratic forces to lower the number of politically active women and to limit the range of perspectives and agendas heard in public debate. Abuse that women in politics face online needs to be stopped if we want women to be able to participate in politics in a fair way. It is also important for modern democracy and civic engagement.

Is it a problem that can be solved?

Stopping gender-based assaults online is a problem that can be solved, and it is the simplest and most obvious step toward creating an internet in which everyone can participate in politics.

The misogyny that politically engaged women confront in person has continually migrated to online spaces and the platforms that host them. While there is no technological cure for sexism, there is a technological solution to misogyny online. If social media companies don't do anything about misinformation and attacks online that are based on gender, they are making a choice that tips the political scales.

For example, Google has a partnership with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) that saw women politicians equipped with online safety tools and skills that helped them mitigate the impact of online trolls and cyber-bullying. They launched a video campaign calling on the public to avoid and curb online abuse and harassment as well as physical violence against women politicians. This is an important step in taming online trolls.


Many women abandon politics entirely, while others are discouraged from ever entering politics in the first place, a troubling trend mirrored in the media. Harassment and violence directed at women in politics may deter young girls and women from pursuing careers in politics.

The impact of such violence goes beyond physical and mental health issues; it also directly threatens women's freedom of expression and ability to pursue political goals. It may cause women to be more cautious about expressing their opinions, to be more selective about the causes they support, or to want to be less visible. As a result, women's political presence and influence are hampered by violence.


Because of a lack of digital skills, women are missing out on the internet's promise. Women, according to the digital gender divide, lack access to the information necessary to reap the benefits of digital transformation. This endangers not only women but also democracy. The free, fair, and inclusive democratic process is jeopardized if women are unable to freely and securely participate as voters, candidates, election officials, or party leaders. This severe lack of equal representation will persist as long as nothing is done to prevent violence against women politicians.