Online abusive behaviour continues to spiral out of control with very little being done by the websites themselves. This must change.
Nearly all of us use social content websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. As in all areas of our lives we should be able to be able to use these websites without the fear of abuse, intimidation, and distress. Yet women, LGBTQ+ people, and people of colour, are facing this daily. We’ve seen study after study into the increasing problem of social media abuse. It’s quickly becoming an epidemic, so why are seeing so much inaction from the companies behind society’s most popular websites?
As a young woman in politics I’ve received an extraordinary amount of abuse online. I’ve seen the standard stock reply of “does not go against the community standards” too often after reporting sexism, transphobia, and misogyny. I am not immune to the harmful effects of online abuse, yet social media companies expect women, BAME people, and LGBTQ+ people to have developed an impenetrable skin.
As another woman in politics, my party’s deputy leader Amelia Womack is no stranger to this sort of online abuse, particularly when speaking out about women’s’ rights. Over recent months, she’s been tirelessly campaigning to make misogyny a hate crime - a measure which has improved the lives of women in Nottingham and other communities in which local Police Commissioners have chosen to expand their definition of hate crime.
For her trouble, Amelia has had her face photoshopped onto demeaning images. She’s been called a misogynist and a misandrist on the same day. She’s had people invade the privacy of her family members. She’s been told to get back in the kitchen. She’s been told to have kids. She’s been told to be careful around dark alleys. All of this, and still Twitter hasn’t lifted a finger.
Of course, this isn’t a problem limited to women in politics. A 2015 survey on online hate speech found:
- 83% of the respondents have encountered online hate speech
- The 3 groups most often targeted are LGBT, Muslims and Women
- 70% believes that human rights should apply online like they apply offline
Yesterday and Today, UK political parties as well as politicians and experts from around the world have come together to discuss tackling Violence against women in politics, twitter and facebook were invited but have not attended.
I’m calling on social media companies to act. Facebook, twitter, and others, should be classed as publishers and if they do not act to remove hate content and abuse, then they should face action. No more should they be able to hide behind weak community standards, these websites are failing their users.
Twitter, Facebook, and other websites need to step up against abuse. Until they do, they are helping to normalise hate, which fails society.