Amnesty International has released a damning report on Twitter and how it deals with the abuse faced by women online, calling it a “toxic place” for female users.
Yesterday was the 12 year anniversary of the very first tweet, and it’s fair to say that in the last decade the social media platform has reached monumental popularity. It’s become a space known for sharing opinions, communicating with people from all corners of the earth and making yourself heard.
However, there is no denying that Twitter can be a pretty brutal place for women. Many a story has graced the headline of how, when a woman’s tweet goes viral, hordes of men refuse to believe what she’s saying is true and subject her to criticism. And research has also found that female politicians are three times more likely to receive derogatory comments related to their gender than men.
Amnesty International has highlighted this, and much more, in a report that shows how Twitter is failing to support women who are being targeted by online abuse on the site.
The human rights organisation released its findings on Twitter’s 12th birthday (21 March) and has urged the brand to “take concrete steps to address and prevent violence and abuse against women on its platform.”
Over the last 16 months, Amnesty International says it’s been gathering qualitative and quantitative research about women’s experiences on social media platforms including the scale, nature and impact of violence and abuse directed towards women on Twitter.
Through interviewing 86 women from the UK and USA, from all different walks of life, and working with experts in women’s rights, technology and digital platforms, the organisation reports that Twitter is a “toxic place for women” - especially for those in minority groups.
Amnesty International says that “Twitter’s failure to adequately respect human rights and effectively tackle violence and abuse on the platform means that instead of women using their voices ‘to impact the world’ [the brand’s motto], many women are instead being pushed backwards to a culture of silence.”
It seems Twitter users agree. In a survey of 1,100 British women carried out for the report, only nine percent thought Twitter was doing enough to stop violence and abuse against women. Further to this, 78% were too scared to share their opinions on the platform for fear of being verbally attacked for it.
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, says: “For far too long Twitter has been a space where women can too easily be confronted with death or rape threats, and where their genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations are under attack.
“The trolls are currently winning, because despite repeated promises, Twitter is failing to do enough to stop them. Twitter must take concrete steps to address and prevent violence and abuse against women on its platform, otherwise its claim to be on women’s side is meaningless.”
Twitter has responded, saying that it “cannot delete hatred and prejudice from society” and has made more than 30 changes to its platform in the past 16 months to improve safety, including the action it takes on abusive tweets.