Numbers > Number 19 > Online Pandemic: Analysis of campaigns against gender-based violence and media coverage of machismo during the Covid-19 confinement on Facebook and Instagram
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ISSN: 1885-365X
SUAU GOMILA, Guillem Contact 0000-0002-8364-675X
SÁNCHEZ-MEZA, Metzeri Contact 0000-0002-0656-1349

Online Pandemic: Analysis of campaigns against gender-based violence and media coverage of machismo during the Covid-19 confinement on Facebook and Instagram

27 de noviembre de 2022
3 de diciembre de 2022


Social networks have become an essential communication tool that contributes significantly to crisis and emergency management. Despite the fact that some authors (Eriksson and Olsson, 2016; Díaz-Campo, Chaparro-Domínguez and Rodríguez-Martínez, 2018) criticize their use as channels that promote spectacularization, sensationalism, alarmism and disinformation (Gil-Calvo, 2003), other academics highlight its usefulness as it is an immediate and wide-ranging means of communication (Caldevilla- Domínguez, Rodríguez-Terceño and Barrientos-Báez, 2019; Rodríguez-Fidalgo and Ruiz-Paz and Paíno-Ambrosio, 2019; Gong and Lane, 2020). During the health, social, economic and political crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the main measure adopted by governments was the confinement of the population. This measure was especially sensitive for women victims of gender violence when they were confined 24 hours a day with their abusers, therefore, the main objective of the research is to analyze how the main media profiles and Spanish public institutions communicated on Facebook and Instagram the problems related to gender violence derived from confinement. The methodology used is mixed, with analytical, descriptive and interpretive depth. The research techniques used have been social network analysis and metrics and content analysis. The results allow us to affirm that Facebook was the most used platform to communicate this sub-emergency and that the communication carried out by both types of profiles was eminently informative, transferring clarifications on the measures approved by the government to combat this social scourge and providing data and statistics on this problematic.

1. Introduction

In the digital environment, social networks represent one of the most significant tools at the service of institutional and media communication for society (Herrero and Ruano, 2019). They have not only served to inform, but also to strengthen relationships and legitimize implemented policies. The use of social networks or media has spread to all levels (International, national and local) and they have played a fundamental role during the Covid-19 crisis to convey messages to the population. These act as channels that give voice to innumerable connected users capable of simultaneously transmitting and receiving all kinds of thematic content such as terrorism, health crises or climate emergency, because as Castells (1996) points out, in the context of emergency communication, it must be considered that the network society does not distinguish the sender from the receiver of the message.

Social networks have modified the traditional paradigm, directly impacting communication between people, organizations, and institutions (Padilla, 2016; Kimmons, Veletsianos, and Woodward, 2017). In this sense, social networks have been essential for institutional communication, making it easier for the population to understand the situation and find out about measures and restrictions (Costa-Sánchez and López-García, 2020), because as Faber, Budding and Gradus state, (2020) they can contribute with more detailed and useful information for the public. However, other authors are critical of the use of these platforms in emergency situations (Eriksson and Olsson, 2016; Díaz-Campo, Chaparro-Domínguez and Rodríguez-Martínez, 2018) by stating that the high dissemination of sensationalist messages, spectacularization and even disinformation in the digital sphere can imply incorrect management of the emergency, amplifying fear and the perception of risk (Gil-Calvo, 2003).

According to various studies (González-Padilla and Tortolero-Blanco, 2020; Goel and Gupta, 2020), using social networks in their optimal functioning helps to effectively disseminate key information in situations of health crises. In fact, in different contexts, the effectiveness of

social networks such as Twitter has been proven (Suau-Gomila, Percastre-Mendizábal, Palà- Navarro and Pont-Sorribes, 2017; Caldevilla-Domínguez, Rodríguez-Terceño and Barrientos- Báez, 2019; Rodríguez-Fidalgo, Ruiz-Paz and Paíno-Ambrosio, 2019; Gong and Lane, 2020), Facebook (Arroyo-Almaraz, Calle-Mendoza and Van-Wyk, 2018), Telegram or WhatsApp (López-Tárraga, 2020; Casero-Ripollés, 2020) as institutional communication management tools in times of pandemic or emergency.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a pandemic, and on January 30 of the same year it declared it a public health emergency of international concern. One of the main tools that governments used to prevent the spread of the virus was the mandatory confinement of the population (López-García, 2020; Caldas- Calle and Torres-Palchisaca, 2021). In Spain, the confinement began with the declaration of a state of alarm on March 11, 2020 and was in force until June 21 of the same year. The Covid-19 outbreak has involved a health crisis with significant social, economic and even political repercussions. These dimensions (health, social, economic and political) have impacted women and men differently, especially in the home environment, since derived from the situation of confinement the risk of gender violence and other types of violence against women increased (Taub 2020). This increase is so significant that it has been described as a double pandemic (Bettinger-López and Bro, 2020), since a human crisis was added to the health crisis by favoring a context of isolation that facilitates sexist violence.

Violence against women is caused by gender inequality, discrimination, and harmful cultural and social norms, and it is increasingly recognized as a public health issue and as one of the problems with the greatest social impact, due to the confirmation of the increase in violence (domestic, family, gender) (Sapire, Ostrowski, Maier, Samari, Bencomo and McGovern, 2022). To analyze the impact of the circumstances created by the confinement on gender violence, it is essential to understand that the limits to physical mobility, the control behaviors of the abusers and the practices of social isolation potentially increase the vulnerability of women who suffer violence of genre.

As a result of the declaration of the state of alarm and confinement, different measures focused on the care and prevention of gender violence were implemented. In view of the Covid-19 crisis, the Ministry of Equality, given the exceptional circumstances, approved a Contingency Plan against gender violence that included various actions (specialized information and advice telephone numbers; national and regional professional action protocols in different areas; a network of shelters; comprehensive assistance (legal, labor, social and psychological); financial aid to guarantee the operation of services for the protection of victims of gender violence.

This study is based on the following question: How did public administrations and the Spanish and national media use social networks to communicate prevention measures against sexist violence in full confinement due to the Covid-19 pandemic? Based on this question, the main objective is to analyze how the main media profiles and public institutions communicated on Facebook and Instagram the problems related to gender violence derived from confinement in Spain. Consequently, the specific objectives proposed by the research are the following:

  1. a)  Examine which platform, Facebook or Instagram, used the media and public institutions the most to communicate the problems of gender violence derived from confinement.
  2. b)  Monitorwhattypeofprofilesandpostshadthegreatestimpact(virality)onFacebook and Instagram.
  3. c)  Analyze what type of messages were the most disseminated by the profiles analyzed.
  4. d)  Compare the similarities and differences between institutional and media messages.


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