Women using Twitter are in danger

FILE PHOTO | A Black Lives Matter protest in the U.S. | Renee Bracey Sherman, a ...
FILE PHOTO | A Black Lives Matter protest in the U.S. | Renee Bracey Sherman, a US abortion rights activist, explained how the violence and abuse she experiences on social media platforms went to a deeper level when she started talking about reproductive rights issues or the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Women using social media platforms such as Twitter are in danger.

Why? Because of violence and abuse.

Driven by the alarming number of women who are said to have reported cases of abuse, Amnesty International decided to find out if there was any truth in their claims.

They talked to female politicians, activists, bloggers, writers, comedians and game developers.

Women who use the platform but do not have a large following were also approached as were experts on gender abuse and discrimination particularly in the digital arena.

What they found?

Jessica Valenti, a U.S. based journalist and writer sums it up in one sentence: “…Twitter is the worst of the social media platforms, just because of the quickened and masked flow [of abuse].”

Her sentiments were echoed across the U.S. and the United Kingdom with victims saying the biggest problem is the laissez faire approach from Twitter.

There exists rules of engagement and Twitter is clear that it does not allow abuse of women, or men for that matter, on its platform.

However, the Amnesty International report reveals that the lack of transparency on how such cases are dealt with remains a cause for concern.

“Amnesty International acknowledges that Twitter has recently taken steps to improve women’s experiences on the platform, however the organization’s assessment is that these are not yet sufficient to adequately tackle the scale and nature of violence and abuse against women on Twitter,” the report said.

Ugly, fat, **** hair, c*** are some of the abuses that female activists such as Renee Bracey Sherman have had to endure for speaking out on controversial issues such as abortion.

She says the fact that she is a woman of color also made it worse when she spoke up about Black Lives Matter.

Misogyny and white supremacy took precedence as a conversation that had begun to educate and inform turned into horrifying verbal abuse.

“People are upset when marginalised folks, black folks, women of colour, trans women, trans folks – when they reclaim their narrative and are unapologetic – it makes people uncomfortable. And this primal level of attack comes out and they just say such disgusting things,” she told Amnesty officials.

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon and UK journalist Hadley Freeman said the same thing: that a relationship exists between misogyny and abuse of female Twitter users.

Ironically, women still want to be on Twitter despite negative experiences of their counterparts.

It remains an important tool of communication for women irrespective of gender, sexual bias, political affiliation, industry, race, religion or culture.

“Many women interviewed by Amnesty International spoke about the fact that the online world, more generally, has created spaces where people feel emboldened to say things to people that they would not necessarily say offline,” the report adds.

Amnesty International however insists that Twitter, that is bound by the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, has to take tougher and transparent steps to deal with those who perpetrate abuse on the platform.


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