Women receive abuse every 30 seconds on Twitter

It’s long been known that Twitter is unkind to women. Females on the platform are routinely derided, taunted and threatened, with insults thrown around like some kind of cruelty confetti. The whole thing feels nebulous, difficult to address. But the latest study on the matter does a hell of a lot to quantify that cruelty.

Research undertaken by Amnesty International and Element AI, a global AI software company, reveals that female journalists and politicians were abused every 30 seconds on Twitter last year.

The study, in examining hate speech directed towards women online, is the largest of its kind to date. Volunteers waded through reams and reams of online misogyny, uncovering 1.1 million abusive tweets sent to high-profile women, including MPs, members of Congress and a host of journalists.

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As for the content of the abuse, it was prejudice incarnate; the vitriol spewed was heavily related to race, gender and sexuality. Perhaps the starkest revelation pertains to race, with the discovery that black women are 84% more likely than white women to have been mentioned in an abusive tweet.

Milena Marin, Senior Advisor for Tactical Research at Amnesty International, was less than impressed with Twitter’s handling of the gulf. “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,” she said. “Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalised voices.”

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The study found that the UK’s shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, received more abuse than any other British woman, amassing up to 30,000 abusive tweets.

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All in all, Amnesty and Element’s collaborative investigation confirms the worst. “It’s clear that a staggering level of violence and abuse against women exists on Twitter,” said Marin. “These results back up what women have long been saying – that Twitter is endemic with racism, misogyny and homophobia.”

At long last, it looks like we have the statistical clout to back up long-festering anxieties. Now just what Jack Dorsey et al will do with that information remains to be seen.

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