Amnesty International calls on Twitter and company to do better for women facing abuse online

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  • In July this year, tech giants Twitter, Facebook, Google and TikTok pledged to tackle abuse targeted at women on their platforms. 
  • A survey commissioned by Amnesty International found 40 percent of women who use Twitter more than once a day experience abuse.
  • Twitter and its peers have continuously failed to implement effective solutions for the harm its platforms have caused women. 

Social media companies remain hyperactive in policing women’s bodies on their platforms. But when it comes to ensuring safety from harassment for those same women, the tech giants leave a lot to be desired. 

Earlier this year, Twitter, Facebook, Google and TikTok reportedly pledged to improve safety for women on their platforms at the UN generation Equality Forum in Paris. However, while promises have been made before, women are still targeted for harassment and abuse online.

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A survey commissioned by Amnesty International, conducted between July and August 2021, found that 40 percent of women who use Twitter more than once a day report experiencing abuse and 13 percent who use the platform less than once a week.

When Amnesty asked women who use the platform numerous times a week why they chose not to report the abuse they faced on the platform, all of them said it was “not worth the effort”.

Amnesty International South Africa’s Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed says, “It is concerning that women in particular are facing this kind of abuse online, with little to sometimes no support from Twitter.” 

“Despite our repeated calls to improve their platform, Twitter is still falling short on its promises to protect users at heightened risk of online abuse against women,” Shenilla adds. 

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In 2019, Amnesty International UK called for action to be taken against Facebook after feminist group Level Up found 52 percent of harassment claims made by women were either ignored or brushed off.

The Guardian reported that 29 percent of the 1 000 women who participated in the Level Up survey had been harassed. 

At the time an Amnesty International UK spokesperson told The Guardian, “Time and time again we hear social media companies making pledges that they will do better, but their efforts have not been good enough. Women are still feeling silenced to speak out online for fear of abuse.”

In June 2021, Meta Platforms Inc. – which is the parent company Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – launched the Women’s Safety Hub “to centralise all the safety resources women need when navigating our platform”.

Over the years, Twitter has launched awareness campaigns as well as increased the information available to users through their Help Center and Transparency Reports. 

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In response to this 2021 report by Amnesty International South Africa, Twitter says: “We’re committed to experimenting in public with product solutions that help address the fundamental problems our users are facing, and empowering them with controls to set their own experience. While many of these changes are not directly captured in your report scorecard, we believe these improvements will ultimately enable our most vulnerable communities to better engage in free expression without fear, a goal we share with Amnesty.”

However, after repeated lobbying by Amnesty for better safety for women, says Shenilla, “We have seen time and time again that Twitter has continuously failed to provide effective remedies for the real harm and impact its platform has caused women and/or marginalised groups.”

Have you experienced abuse on social media platforms? Tell us here.

Sources: Amnesty International South Africa, The Guardian, The Verge, Meta Platforms Inc.  

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