Study Discovers That Women Are Abused On Twitter Every 30 Seconds


A grand total of 1.1 million abusive (or generally problematic and/or harassing) tweets were sent to women last year via Twitter, a popular social media website. The figure represents an average of one woman receiving abuse every 30 seconds, as revealed by Amnesty International, as it is released a new ground-breaking study into a glimpse of abuse against women politicians and journalists from the UK and US specifically on Twitter.

The study took place when more than 6,500 volunteers from 150 countries signed up to take part in Amnesty’s ‘Troll Patrol, which is a unique crowdsourcing project that is designed to process large scale data about online abuse or harassment. During the study, volunteers sorted through approximately 228,000 tweets sent to 778 women politicians and journalists in the UK and USA area throughout the duration of 2017. Using this information discovered, machine learning techniques were then used to extrapolate data about the scale of abuse that women face on Twitter each day.

According to the study, black women were shockingly targeted, being 84% more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive or problematic tweets and having one in ten tweets mentioning black women was discovered to be abusive or problematic, compared to one in fifteen for white women. Additionally, 7.1% of tweets sent to the women in the study were problematic or abusive. This amounts to 1.1 million tweets; black and minority ethnic women were 34% more likely to be mentioned in abusive or problematic tweets than white women,
online abuse against women cuts across the political spectrum.

Politicians and journalists faced similar levels of online abuse and we observed both liberals and conservatives alike, as well as left and right leaning media organisations, were affected. Politicians included in the sample came from across the US and UK political spectrums. The journalists included were from a diverse range of US and UK publications including The Daily Mail, The New York Times, Guardian, The Sun and many, many more.

Amnesty International’s Senior Advisor commented on the discovery, stating,“With the help of technical experts and thousands of volunteers, we have built the world’s largest crowdsourced dataset about online abuse against women.“We found that, although abuse is targeted at women across the political spectrum, women of colour were much more likely to be impacted, and black women are disproportionately targeted. Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalised voices.”

They continued, “By crowdsourcing research, we were able to build up vital evidence in a fraction of the time it would take one Amnesty researcher, without losing the human judgement which is so essential when looking at context around tweets.“Troll Patrol isn’t about policing Twitter or forcing it to remove content. We are asking it to be more transparent, and we hope that the findings from Troll Patrol will compel it to make that change. Crucially, Twitter must start being transparent about how exactly they are using machine learning to detect abuse, and publish technical information about the algorithms they rely on.”

Kate Allen, Amnesty UK’s Director also commented on the new discovery, stating, “It’s clear that a staggering level of violence and abuse against women exists on Twitter. These results back up what women have long been saying – that Twitter is endemic with racism, misogyny and homophobia. “The online space is an important platform for political and public conversation, and women must feel safe to express themselves and engage in debate without fear of abuse. She continued, “Twitter is failing to be transparent about the extent of the problem, but if our volunteers can gather meaningful data about online violence and abuse, so can Twitter. The company must take concrete steps to properly protect women’s rights on the platform.”

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