Twitter Is 'Toxic' And Failing Women, Amnesty International Report Claims

Modesto Morganelli
Marzo 21, 2018

The company introduced a hateful conduct policy in 2015, almost a decade after it launched, stating that users can not promote violence or threaten others based on race, ethnicity, gender, or other identities-but women surveyed by Amnesty say complaints about such behavior are frequently dismissed. "Despite repeated promises to clean up the platform, many women are logging onto Twitter to find death threats, rape threats and racist or homophobic slurs littering their feeds", Azmina Dhrodia, technology and human rights researcher at Amnesty, stated in a news release.

Detailing her experiences with online abuse on social media platforms, especially Twitter, Indian journalist Rana Ayyub said, "There was a lot of hate and there was character assassination and the kind of malicious, vicious character assassination that I had not witnessed before. As a company it needs to do much more to respect the human rights of women".

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, said: "It's clear that Twitter has become a toxic place for women".

Amnesty says that since Twitter isn't completely defining what is and isn't allowed, it makes the problem a human rights issue. The company also said there have been 30 changes to its platform in the past 16 months to improve safety, including increasing the instances of action it takes on reported abusive tweets. The microblogging site has also refused to share data on how it addresses reports of abuse because the data "is not informative [as] reporting tools are often used inappropriately".

Amnesty details that numerous women spoken to related they had reported cases of abuse to Twitter and received little to no response.

The report is based on a combination of quantitative and qualitative research conducted over the past 16 months.

Though Amnesty acknowledges steps have been made, it still maintains that Twitter as a whole fails to let users know how it interprets and enforces policies regarding abuse and threats of violence and that enforcement is inconsistent. In addition, Amnesty International India will raise awareness on what constitutes online violence against women and how it can be tackled through better implementation of existing protection mechanisms, and document stories of Indian women who have faced online abuse to highlight the magnitude of the issue in the country.

Miski Noor, a gender non-conforming communications specialist for Black Lives Matter Global Network, said, "Twitter is going to have to say whether they're for the people or they're not". It details a series of concrete recommendations for how Twitter can become a safer place for women, including by sharing data on the functioning of its reporting mechanisms. "After all, they are the conveners of the space and they have the power to change our experiences". But as one of the most prominent and influential platforms, Twitter have a responsibility to try and protect its users from harassment.

The new report, #ToxicTwitter: Violence and abuse against women online, based on interviews with women who have faced online violence and abuse, shows that the company is failing to respect the human rights of women because of its inadequate and ineffective responses. Twenty-three percent of women surveyed said they had experienced online abuse or harassment at least once, and 41 percent of those respondents said that the abuse or harassment made them feel physically threatened, while 26 percent were doxxed in some form. This included restricting what they post: 32% of women said they'd stopped posting content that expressed their opinion on certain issues.

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