Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms

Disinformation (Gendered)

Cite this article as:
Yasmin Curzi (17/12/2021). Disinformation (Gendered). In Belli, L.; Zingales, N. & Curzi, Y. (Eds.), Glossary of Platform Law and Policy Terms (online). FGV Direito Rio.

Author: Yasmin Curzi

Disinformation is a worldwide phenomenon that mostly targets public persons such as politicians, journalists, actors and actresses, influencers, etc. Nevertheless, its impacts on its targets are felt differently by victims and spectators. As shown by a Heinrich Böll Stiftung policy brief on the subject (Judson, 2021)1, gender and sexuality directly impact how the victims are affected and how these attacks are carried out. The recent initiative of taking an intersectional perspective regarding this phenomenon may help with the development of public policies that can more properly address it. 

Regarding the definition of ‘gendered disinformation’, studies conducted in different countries (e.g., for Brazil, see Azmina; InternetLab, 2020; for Germany and Russia, see Wilfore, 2021)2 3 are showing that the attacks against women and LGBTQI+ people are often connected to stereotypes linked to their sexual identity/affect orientation, while the attacks against men aim at their ideas, opinions, and past activities in public life. As Judson (2021)4 clarifies “[g]endered disinformation is manipulated information that weaponizes gendered stereotypes for political, economic or social ends”. It also includes fake and doctored sexual images, coordinated abuse, and caricatures. The current definition provided by the organization ‘She Persisted’ is that 

Gendered disinformation is the spread of deceptive or inaccurate information and images against women political leaders, journalists, and female public figures, following storylines that draw on misogyny, as well as gender stereotypes around the role of women in order to undermine their perceptions of their participation in public life.5 

The conceptualization of ‘gendered disinformation’ is part of a broader initiative related to making explicit political gender-based violence that takes place in imperfect democracies. According to Kristina Willfore (2021)6, “[g]endered disinformation attacks online are a well-known tactic that illiberal actors around the world—including Russia, Hungary, and Brazil—have developed to undermine their opponents”. The background for this type of political violence is the historical segregation of minorities from public institutions. The occurrence of racism, sexism, and LGBTphobia in these spaces is not new. Nevertheless, social media can be a major amplifier of disinformation campaigns, providing attackers with tools to sponsor and boost problematic content on a very large scale, as well as fostering the reach and permanence of such content in an unprecedented way. It also increases the challenges minorities face in belonging and occupying such spaces – both online and offline. The main effect of this phenomenon is to undermine equal participation, thus also potentially undermining democratic institutions. 

Gendered disinformation reports also show that language and semiotics are vital for their spread. As a report by Judson et al (2020)7 on disinformation campaigns in Poland points out, state-sponsored campaigns, linked to the country’s conservative far right, seek to redefine social movements’ terminologies, such as ‘women’s rights’ by linking them to the abortion agenda and then equating it with ‘killing children’. It is a strategy to modify the societal understanding of the subject. It also targets LGBTQI+ people in the country, linking their agenda with assault and aggression. 

In Brazil and in the UK, reports show that female politicians are often called ‘hysterical’, ‘stupid’, ‘immoral’, and others. These offenses are taken to another level if the woman in question is black – the stereotypes of the ‘ugly/angry/mad black women’ are then deployed, putting into question their capabilities and mental stability. 


  1. Judson, Ellen. (2021). Gendered disinformation: 6 reasons why liberal democracies need to respond to this threat. Heinrich Böll Stiftung. Available at:
  2. Azmina; InternetLab. (2020). MonitorA: Report on online political violence on the pages and profiles of candidates in the 2020 municipal elections. Available at:
  3. Wilfore, Kristina. (2021). The gendered disinformation playbook in Germany is a warning for Europe. Available at:
  4. Judson, Ellen. (2021). Gendered disinformation: 6 reasons why liberal democracies need to respond to this threat. Heinrich Böll Stiftung. Available at:
  5. She Persisted Organization. Available at:
  6. Wilfore, Kristina. (2021). The gendered disinformation playbook in Germany is a warning for Europe. Available at:
  7. Judson, Ellen. Atay, Asli. Krasodomski-Jones, Alex. Lasko-Skinner, Rose. Smith, Josh. (2020). Engendering hate: the contours of state-aligned gendered disinformation online. Demos, UK. Available at:
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By Yasmin Curzi

Researcher at the Center for Technology and Society at the FGV Law School. PhD Candidate at the Rio de Janeiro State University, with a CAPES grant. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Sciences from PUC-Rio, also with a CAPES grant. Yasmin holds Bachelor’s Degrees in both Law and Social Sciences from FGV-Rio, with an exchange period at the Université Sorbonne (Paris-IV). She is a former assistant researcher at the Center for Law and Economics from the FGV Law School, and former researcher at the Directory for Analysis of Public Policy. As an attorney, Yasmin also has experience with legal counseling, having worked with the NGO Soul Sisters (Brazil, São Paulo), and with the NGO Stop Street Harassment (Washington-DC).

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