Amnesty International: Toxic twitter - a toxic place for women

Report / White Paper

December 28, 2018

Amnesty International: Toxic twitter - a toxic place for women


As the world becomes increasingly connected online, our reliance on social media platforms such as Twitter has also become increasingly important. But the online world, and social media platforms like Twitter are not immune to many of the human rights abuses that women face offline.

Over the last 16 months, Amnesty International has conducted qualitative and quantitative research about women’s experiences on social media platforms including the scale, nature and impact of violence and abuse directed towards women on Twitter, with a particular focus on the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA). Such abuse includes direct or indirect threats of physical or sexual violence, discriminatory abuse targeting one or more aspects of a woman’s identity, targeted harassment, and privacy violations such as doxing or sharing sexual or intimate images of a woman without her consent.

(…) Many of the women who spoke to Amnesty International about the violence and abuse they experience on Twitter emphasized how important the platform is to them – both professionally and personally. Women rely on social media platforms like Twitter to advocate, communicate, mobilize, access information and gain visibility.

Pamela Merritt, a US blogger and reproductive rights activist, told us,

“I am a bit of a Twitter addict. I wake up, I check Twitter. I have two cups of coffee, and I check it again. Being online is important for my work. I want to know what’s going on. I want to know what people are saying and I want to weigh in, so I’m on Twitter through the day”.

Seyi Akiwowo, UK Politician and activist, talked about how Twitter makes her feel part of a movement and ‘puts words to her experiences’ of being a woman of colour. She told us,

“I feel torn. I love Twitter. The platform has connected me to people I will probably never see in my entire life and they are amazing, successful and inspirational people. There is now a massive movement of women of colour online. We express our beauty and confidence and talk about self-care and intersectional inequality…and so some of my life changing moments and development into womanhood has happened because of and via Twitter. I remember finding my first international job through Twitter. The possibilities and opportunities on that platform are endless.”

(…) Politicians themselves agree. Scottish Parliamentarian and Leader of the Opposition, Ruth Davidson, emphasized how important Twitter is as a tool to communicate and listen to her constituents and the wider public. She notes.

“Social media platforms are where a lot of political debate now happens, particularly as we see the divide in age range of voters. For a lot of younger voters, actually – they don’t want to be told things – they want to be able to discuss them.”

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