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Nato report: Finnish female cabinet members targeted by social media hate campaign

An analysis of social media found that the government has been barraged by online misogynistic harassment.

Five party leaders and government ministers pictured in 2019. Annika Saarikko has since replaced Katri Kulmuni (second from left) in the cabinet. Image: Jari Kovalainen / Yle

The Finnish coalition government, where all five governing parties are headed by women, is the subject of a constant campaign of hate speech on social media, according to a new report by the Nato Strategic Communications (Stratcom) Centre of Excellence, based in Latvia.

Entailed Abuse of power: Coordinated online harassment of Finnish government ministers (external link here (siirryt toiseen palveluun)), the report states that the five ministers most affected are women and are the target of a massive, hostile attack that calls into question their values, decision-making and leadership qualities.

It found that the main topics triggering abusive messages were the Covid-19 pandemic, immigration, Finnish-EU relations, and socially-liberal politics. Most of the harassment came in messages posted by real individuals, not computer-programmed bots, and most were anonymous.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) commented on the results of the study on Twitter.

"Incompetent, inexperienced, Sokos cashier, girl, girl government, lipstick government, pantyhose government, intimidation, hate speech, online shaming. Yes, women lead the government. Get over it," Marin wrote.

So Marin urges people to live with the fact that women run the government.

The Stratcom report drew on the findings of three recent Finnish studies, one of which investigated the extent and effects of online hate speech against politicians, while the other two studied the use of bots to influence political discourse during the 2019 Finnish parliamentary elections.

The first study, released by the Finnish government in November 2019 found that a third of municipal decision-makers and nearly half of all members of the Finnish Parliament have been subjected to hate speech online.

The Nato report sees a constant flow of hate speech and hostile feedback as threats to Finnish democracy. It notes that the Finnish government's 2019 study found that 28 percent of decision-makers who have been the subject of hate speech feel that their willingness to participate in the political decision-making process has decreased.

The Stratcom study focused on social media messaging via Twitter.