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Harassment of women on Twitter: Amnesty pushes the nail

Twitter is regularly criticized for the harassment issues on its platform. NICOLAS SIX / QUENTIN HUGON / THE WORLD

A “Troll patrol” : this is what Amnesty International has put in place to analyze the harassment of women on Twitter. It brought together more than 6,500 volunteers from 150 countries to analyze 288,000 tweets sent to 778 women in 2017. The result of their work has just been published Tuesday, December 18. With an overwhelming report according to the NGO: “We have the data to corroborate what women have been telling us for a long time – Twitter is a space where racism, misogyny and homophobia flourish unhindered. “

The tweets analyzed are those received by 778 women, journalists and politicians American and British, of all political edges. In total, they received 14.5 million tweets in 2017. The Troll Patrol volunteers manually analyzed 288,000. Element AI, a company specializing in AI, and Amnesty's partner for project, extrapolated the data they collected to provide an overview of the phenomenon.

As a result, 7.1% of tweets sent to these women last year were problematic – threatening, violent, aggressive, degrading or sexist, for example. Which corresponds in all to 1.1 million messages, “Be one every thirty seconds”says Amnesty in its report. Among the tweets taken into account by the organization, some do not violate the rules of Twitter, as some hostile or offensive content, says the NGO.

Black women are the most targeted

Women of color are particularly targeted: they have 34% risk in addition to being mentioned in these tweets as white women “. Among them, black women are the most affected (84% more risk than white women), with “one tweets out of ten” received being problematic – against one in fifteen for white women. “The failure of Twitter to crack down on this phenomenon means that it helps to silence already marginalized voices”, writes Milena Marin, head of research at Amnesty, in a statement. And while women of Hispanic origin receive fewer problem tweets than white women, the messages received are more likely to contain threats of physical violence. As far as their political affiliation is concerned, left-wing women politicians are more targeted than those on the right, but Amnesty has observed the opposite for journalists – relying on the political color of the publications for which they work.

Amnesty recognizes, however, several limitations to its study. Starting with the fact that it focuses on Anglo-Saxon politicians and journalists. The results “Would be relatively different with other professions or countries”, says the NGO. She also points out that her definition of problematic tweets, beyond those banned by Twitter, can be debated – something that Twitter has raised after the report was released. But for Amnesty, taking them into account allows “Recognize the cumulative effect” the many aggressive tweets that these women receive.

Another element to take into consideration: the tweets analyzed, although they date from 2017, were collected in March 2018. However, some problematic tweets, prohibited by the platform, could be deleted in the meantime by the social network . “This suggests that the actual extent of harassment was even greater than our results show,” stresses the NGO.

Amnesty calls for more transparency

“Online violence against women of this magnitude should not exist on social networks”, says Amnesty.

“Companies like Twitter have a responsibility to respect human rights, which includes ensuring that women who use the platform are able to express themselves freely and without fear. “

This is not the first time that the NGO has been asking Twitter for accounts on this subject. She had already asked him to make public his data on harassment, which the social network had refused. “Such data is valuable for anyone trying to understand and fight this barrier to women's rights on the Internet. Since Twitter refuses, we hope this project will provide insight into the scale of the problem. “

Twitter however comes Wednesday, December 12, to add for the first time to his “Transparency report” informations on the contents he suppresses to enforce his rules. “This was one of Amnesty International's recommendations and we consider that it is going in the right direction”, says the NGO. “But we are disappointed that the information in this report does not go far enough. ” Amnesty believes that Twitter does not detail this data, for example by specifying the populations targeted by the deleted tweets, or by indicating how long these messages have been banned.

“Harassment, automatic messages and manipulation are hurting Twitter”Twitter's Vijaya Gadde told Amnesty, who sent her responses to the magazine Wired. The social network, which has been recognizing harassment issues on its platform for several years, has increased the number of ads to try to improve the situation – without ever being able to solve the problem. Vijaya Gadde promises more transparency in the future, and ensures that the company is showing “Grateful” to Amnesty of the counselor “What should this include”.

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