Cracking Down on Toxic Abuse
High-profile women are calling on Twitter to do something against 'Toxic Abuse.' Among those women are Nicola Sturgeon (First Prime Minister of Scotland), Ruth Davidson (Member of Scottish Parliament), and Laura Bates (British Author).
Twitter boasts itself as a platform meant to "empower everyone to raise their voice," but, for many women, the experience is tarnished by abuse and harassment. Sometimes that abuse even leads to threats of death and sexual violence.
Women from across public-facing careers are joining forces with Amnesty International to call on Twitter to find a solution and end the abuse.
On the 12th anniversary of the first tweet being sent, Nicola Sturgeon is one of the women lending her voice to the #ToxicTwitter Campaign.
“What makes me angry when I read that kind of abuse about me is I worry it is putting the next generation of young women off politics,” she told Amnesty.
“So I feel a responsibility to challenge it not so much on my own behalf, but on behalf of young women out there who are looking at what people say about me and thinking they don’t want to ever be in that position,” she said.
Amnesty’s campaign, which launched TODAY, argues that Twitter has become a toxic place for women, and includes a report featuring interviews with more than 80 women. As well as misogyny, the report highlights to racist, transphobic, and homophobic abuse that is an everyday reality for many people on the platform.
The campaign focuses on the high-profile women who most often are targeted (including politicians, journalists, and activists), but also emphasizes that women and girls who simply want to know what’s happening around them” also come under fire, particularly when using hashtags relating to sexism or campaigns.
“For many women, Twitter is a platform where violence and abuse against them flourishes, often with little accountability,” said Amnesty in a statement . “As a company, Twitter is failing in its responsibility to respect women’s rights online and inadequately investigating and responding to reports of violence and abuse in a transparent manner.”
It added that online abuse has a “detrimental effect on [women’s] 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,” it added.
Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, is also lending her voice to the campaign. She said that, even early in the project, she received around 200 abusive messages every day — including detailed, graphic, and explicit descriptions of rape and domestic violence.
“We are seeing young women and teenage girls experiencing online harassment as a normal part of their existence online,” she said . “It’s an invisible issue right now, but it might be having a major impact on the future political participation of those girls and young women.”
“We won’t necessarily see the outcome of that before it’s too late,” she added.
According to Amnesty, the levels of abuse online threaten to hold back the success of women’s rights movements like #TimesUp and #MeToo, because it means many women fear speaking out publicly.
Twitter said it doesn’t agree with Amnesty’s conclusions, reported the BBC .
It said it “cannot delete hatred and prejudice from society” and had made more than 30 changes in the past 16 months, in an effort to improve safety. That includes ramping up the number of actions taken against abusive tweets.