Twitter’s toxic culture of violence and online abuse is failing women, says Amnesty Int’l
Twitter blew celebratory candles as it marked its 12th birthday yesterday, March 21. But while an approximated two trillion tweets have been tweeted since the social media application’s conception, it isn’t as rose-tinted as tweeting in the name of communication and human connection.
In the past, Twitter has been used to stalk and bully people, spread propaganda, and as a weapon for hate speech. Amnesty International, a London-based non-governmental organization that focuses on human rights, released a report right on Twitter’s birthday, entitled “#ToxicTwitter”. The report was sixteen months in the making, and is a result of focus group discussions with more than 80 women, and a survey conducted with more than 1,000 women.
The women’s testimony detailed the online abuse they’ve faced from using Twitter, as well as the psychological harm that comes with this abuse as a repercussion. According to Amnesty International, the women in the study, which includes politicians, journalists and regular private citizens across the United Kingdom and the United States, have received death threats, rape threats, racist slurs, and transphobic and homophobic abuse.
Moreover, it was discovered that public figures and journalists are often the targets for these abuses. Twitter, as a business, has been deemed to have a responsibility to respect human’s rights, including creating a safe platform for users, free from discrimination and threats of violence. However, the women mentioned that while they reported multiple abusive tweets to Twitter, very few of them only received a response.
Amnesty’s report concludes that Twitter failed to let its users know how it interprets and enforces its policies, or how it trains their content moderators when it comes to responding to reports of violence and abuses. Its response to these abuses is found to be enforced inconsistently. There are times when reports of abuse are not heeded or responded to, with these hateful contents staying on the platform despite violation of guidelines and after reporting.
As Twitter is expected to remain as one of the behemoths in the realm of social media in the years to come, much responsibility is expected when it comes to its kind of reach. Perhaps more stringent measures and policies may be introduced to the application in improving the safety of its users — a kind of safety that does not just take into account the welfare of the few, but crosses all borders: sex, gender, age and ethnicity, to name a few. JB