Hey Twitter, this is what women want you to know about online abuse

Hey Twitter, this is what women want you to know about online abuse
Photo credit: Getty.

OPINION: The internet can be a scary place for women. In a 2017 poll of 500 New Zealand women, around a third of those surveyed said they had experienced online abuse. Of those, two thirds said they were left feeling "powerless" and around half said they now used social media less or had stopped using it altogether.

Last week Amnesty International released a new report showing that women who use Twitter are often subjected to sexist, racist and homophobic abuse. And when they report the abuse, they don't feel that Twitter is on their side.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey recently made a public plea for help to clean up the platform and claimed to "stand with women around the world to make their voices heard". Since Dorsey claims to be listening, here is a short list of things women want Twitter to know.

Online abuse can be terrifying – many women are left fearing for their safety.

It can land right in the palm of your hand anytime, anywhere, even in the supposed safety of your own home. Around half of New Zealand women who had experienced online abuse said they feared for their own or their families’ safety.

Abuse is often directed at specific facets of a woman’s identity.

Women are targeted not just because they are women, but because of their gender identity, race or religion.

Women who "make their voice heard" on Twitter often become targets for abuse.

Laura O'Connell Rapira, Director at ActionStation, uses social media for her daily work. She was told by one troll to "kill herself", and says posting anything about women's rights will usually generate hate.

The psychological impact of online abuse can be devastating.

Around three quarters of NZ women who said they had been targets of online abuse reported being unable to sleep, less able to focus on their daily lives, and experienced lower self-esteem.

Online abuse has a serious impact on freedom of expression.

Women are censoring what they post about and in some cases whether they post at all. Women should be able to be on Twitter, but they want to feel safe.

Women can experience a steady and rapid flow of abuse on platforms like Twitter.

One post can generate a tidal wave of abuse and harassment. Lizzie Marvelly, founder and editor of Villainesse.com says online harassment is like a "pack sport."

Twitter must act now.

Twitter's own policies on hateful conduct prohibit violence and abuse against women, but the company is failing to act on them. Now is the time for Twitter to be transparent about how it addresses reports of violence and abuse in order for women to feel safe and protected online.

Want to be part of the solution? Join the call. Tweet Jack Dorsey now: Hey @Jack don't let #ToxicTwitter silence women. Follow your own Twitter rules.

Meg de Ronde is the Acting Executive Director Amnesty International New Zealand.

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