For many women, especially journalists, politicians, and other public figures, Twitter can be a toxic place and online abuse is even worse if you’re a woman of colour, a study by Amnesty International and Element AI found.
Multiple volunteer groups examined 288,000 tweets that mentioned 778 female politicians and journalists in the UK and US last year. About 7.1% of the tweets sent to these women were “problematic” or “abusive,” the study found. On an average, women received these harmful tweets every 30 seconds.
The abusive tweets included death threats and racist tropes. A tweet that read “Be a good girl… go wash dishes” was an example of a problematic post.
The study also shows that women of colour who are politicians or journalists are 84% more likely to be mentioned in abusive or “problematic” tweets than white women in the same profession.
“Twitter has publicly committed to improving the collective health, openness and civility of public conversation on our service,” Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of legal, policy, and trust and safety, said in response to the report. “Twitter’s health is measured by how we help encourage healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking. Conversely, abuse, malicious automation, and manipulation detract from the health of Twitter. We are committed to holding ourselves publicly accountable towards progress in this regard.”
However, the study only took into account Twitter data available to download in March 2018, so any deleted tweets or tweets from accounts that were suspended or disabled weren’t counted, meaning the actual rate is probably higher.
The authors of the study also admitted that the findings would be different “if applied to other professions, countries or the wider population” and that every woman’s race was deduced based on official sources and public information, which could differ from how they self-identify.