Violence and abuse against women on Twitter is out of control and Amnesty International is calling for action. Twitter is not doing enough to prevent or respond to the barrage of violence and abuse that women experience daily on its platform.
At a watershed moment, where women are using their collective power to amplify their voices on social media (thank you, #MeToo), Twitter is failing in its responsibilities to respect women’s rights and Amnesty is responding.
Over a 16-month period, Amnesty conducted both qualitative and quantitative research with female journalists, bloggers, activists, politicians, writers, comedians, as well as everyday female users, in the UK and the US.
The research paints a worrying picture for women on Twitter: the platform is littered with violence and abuse, and our research shows that women are silencing or censoring themselves as a result of Twitter’s inaction to adequately deal with this problem.
Some women are targeted because of their racial, ethnic or religious background, disabilities, involvement in the LGBTQ community, while others are condemned for their political and personal opinions. More so, Twitter has failed to be transparent with Amnesty and Twitter users and is unwilling to reveal how they respond to reports of violence and abuse.
Given that Twitter isn’t revealing the level of abuse women are facing on the platform, Amnesty has set out to investigate the numbers. The organisation collected hundreds of thousands of tweets sent to women politicians and journalists throughout 2017 and is asking digital volunteers to help categorise these tweets in a systematic way.
Anyone with a phone or computer can participate and dedicate as little as 30 seconds to detect online abuse. Amnesty will give registered participants short training on the site and its research, which will then be verified and pieced together with thousands of other people’s work.
So far, nearly 5,000 people from 140 countries have volunteered online to help analyse tweets and detect abuse against female Twitter users. The volunteers are brave, constantly finding offensive and threatening language, while simultaneously encouraging and empowering each other on the platform. That said, the work isn’t over yet.
Everyone has a right to express themselves online freely and without fear, but Twitter inadequate measures to rid their platform of abuse against women is unacceptable.
In an eight-part research piece published in April 2018, Amnesty proposed solutions that Twitter can adopt to ensure it is adequately and meaningfully respecting human rights.
- Twitter should publicly share comprehensive and meaningful information about the nature and levels of violence and abuse against women, as well as other groups, on the platform, and how they respond to it.
- Twitter should improve its reporting mechanisms to ensure consistent application and better response to complaints of violence and abuse.
- Twitter should provide more clarity about how it interprets and identifies violence and abuse on the platform and how it handles reports of such abuse
- Twitter should undertake far more proactive measures in educating users and raising awareness about security and privacy features on the platform that will help women create a safer, and less toxic Twitter experience.
Movements like #MeToo are a brilliant reminder of how powerful the female voice is and we must fight together to keep it that way. Amnesty is asking Digital Women UK followers to join thousands of dedicated digital volunteers to help expose sexist, racist and homophobic abuse.
Click here to spend a few moments analyzing tweets – and remember your contribution is helping to fight hateful online abuse and violence towards women like you and I.
About the Author
Tracey Kraemer is a Seattle, WA native, completing her masters degree in International Affairs and Cultural Studies at the University of Westminster, London. She currently lives in Hackney where she is writing her thesis and is also interning on the campaigns team at the Amnesty International Secretariat. Tracey has experience in writing, gallery work, photography and is interested in making human rights activism her full time career. You can follow Tracey on Twitter: @Tracey__Kraemer