Twitter still toxic for women, Amnesty International says

The human rights group says the social media giant is not being completely transparent about what steps it's taking to combat abuse online


Amnesty International is calling out Twitter’s record on violence against women once again.

The human rights group says the social media giant continues not to do enough to protect women from online abuse.

Amnesty says the company has failed to fully implement all but one of 10 recommendations made in its 2018 report, Toxic Twitter: A Toxic Place For Women.

That document reported women were experiencing stress, anxiety and panic attacks as a result of toxic experiences online. And urged Twitter to implement a host of transparency and privacy measures to stop the attacks.

Amnesty says there has been “limited progress” made by Twitter on reports of abuse.

In a follow-up report released last week, Twitter Scorecard, Amnesty says Twitter is still failing to provide detailed breakdowns of user reports of abuse. Or data on abuse based on gender or race.

According to Amnesty, Twitter does not publish that data because it “could be open to misinterpretation and give a misleading impression of the problem.”

Amnesty reviewed Twitter’s most recent Transparency Report to arrive at its findings.

That report, says Amnesty, does not include data on the average response times to reports of abuse. Or the number of content moderators employed by the company to review reports of abuse.

Amnesty says Twitter’s report also “does not offer any information about the training received by content moderators related to gender and identity-based abuse and violence.”

Amnesty commissioned an IPSOS MORI poll in 2017 to gauge the experiences of women in Denmark, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Spain, Sweden, the UK and US.

It found that nearly one quarter (23 per cent) of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 55 had experienced online abuse or harassment at least once.

Forty-one per cent of those surveyed said their physical safety was threatened. Almost half the respondents described the abuse they had experienced as “misogynistic or sexist in nature.”

The abuse took many forms – direct or indirect threats of physical or sexual violence. And privacy violations such as “doxing” – the uploading of private identifying information. The abuse also included the sharing of sexual or intimate images.

“Such persistent abuse undermines the right of women to express themselves equally, freely and without fear,” Amnesty says. “Instead of strengthening women’s voices, the violence and abuse many women experience on the platform leads women to self-censor what they post, limit their interactions, and even drives women off Twitter completely.”

Amnesty describes the findings as “highly intersectional” targeting mostly women of colour and women from ethnic or religious minorities.

Women belonging to marginalized castes, and lesbian, bisexual or transgender women and women with disabilities were over-represented in the data, Amnesty reports.

As part of its analysis of Twitter, Amnesty also released a Troll Patrol study in 2018. It reviewed millions of tweets received by 778 journalists and politicians from the UK and US throughout 2017. Its study found that women of colour were 34 per cent more likely to be targets of abuse online. It also documented how the incidence of abuse coincided with the abortion debate in Argentina and general elections in India.

Amnesty says Twitter has “made some progress” by increasing the amount of information on online abuse through its Help Center. The company has also launched and expanded its “hateful conduct policy” to include language that dehumanizes people.

Amnesty says Twitter has also improved its reporting systems and online privacy and security features.

But the social media platform needs to be more transparent about automated processes to identify online abuse against women.

Twitter, for example, has disclosed how it’s using algorithms to combat misinformation on COVID-19. But “it has yet to provide the same level of transparency to address abusive tweets,” says Amnesty.

Amnesty International’s Toxic Twitter scorecard rates the social media platform’s human rights record on online abuse.

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