Twitter is a toxic place for women; Amnesty Report

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An illustration of a woman sketch shows twitter as toxic platform for women
illustration by abdugeek / TechEngage
(Last Updated On: December 19, 2018)

A recent report by Amnesty International confirms that every thirty seconds on Twitter, a woman gets bullied. After observing a relentless culture of harassment and bullying against women, Amnesty has declared Twitter to be a ‘toxic place’ for women. They believe that the social media platform is a cesspool for negative social interactions, especially for women. Although it is clear as day that the social media site is a trip for everyone. Most importantly politicians, journalists, and media personalities are at the brunt of the most amount of hate on Twitter. However, the new report by Amnesty confirms that it is basically hell if you are a woman too.

The report says:

“The violence and abuse many women experience on Twitter has a detrimental effect on their right to express themselves equally, freely and without fear. Instead of strengthening women’s voices, the violence and abuse many women experience on the platform leads women to self-censor what they post, limit their interactions, and even drives women off Twitter completely.”

The Study:

Amnesty International is a non-governmental human rights organization that is active all over the world. It habitually releases surveys and reports on human rights abuses happening around the globe. Through this, they bring the plight of victims to light. They released a report on the adverse effects on women of something as usual and seemingly innocuous as Twitter.

Amnesty International performed the study on one of their research project groups. Volunteers from the Amnesty teamed up with a Montreal-based startup called Element AI to study 228,000 tweets. Trolls sent out these tweets to 786 women in politics and journalists. The researchers called the project Troll Patrol.

Amnesty International proceeded to interview 86 women. These were women journalists and politicians from across the political spectrum in the UK as well as the US. Other than them, there were also activists, bloggers, writers, comedians and many more. The observation lasted for the last sixteen months.

According to the study, a woman of color is 34 percent more likely to suffer abuse on the website as compared to white women. However, a black woman is 84 percent more likely to have abuse hurled at her than a white woman. The report also claimed that one in ten tweets at black women contained problematic content. However, for white women, the ratio was one in fifteen. The report says:

“Abusive content violates Twitter’s own rules and includes tweets that promote violence against or threaten people based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability or serious disease.”

Response by Twitter:

Amnesty International claims that under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (PDF), Twitter has responsibilities. Twitter, as a company, is bound to ensure discrimination and undue hate speech is suppressed. In January 2018, Amnesty International contacted Twitter and asked them to share data on what they were doing to effectively curb violence and abuse from the site. This was in response to women complaining that their reports against abusive content are, more often than not, of no consequence. However, Twitter responded with:

“Meaningful transparency is a question we share your passion for. The question of absolute numbers of reports and the proportion of accounts that are actioned is one on which we continue to reflect. However, it is important to note that this type of information can be both uninformative and potentially misleading.”

Vijaya Gadde is Twitter’s legal, policy and safety chief. She said:

“We are also transparently investing in better technology and tools to enable us to more proactively identify abusive, violative material, to limit its spread and reach on the platform and to encourage healthier conversations.”

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