Twitter Charged with Violence, Abuse Against Women

Paul Ausick

A new report from Amnesty International claims that Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR) fails “to adequately respect [women’s] human rights and effectively tackle violence and abuse [toward women].” That failure “means that instead of women using their voices ‘to impact the world,’ many women are instead being pushed backwards to a culture of silence.”

The 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 images of a woman without her consent.

CEO Jack Dorsey last year recognized the problem:

We see voices being silenced on Twitter every day. We’ve been working to counteract this for the past 2 years … We prioritized this in 2016. We updated our policies and increased the size of our teams. It wasn’t enough.

Some subjects generate more abuse than others. Amnesty International cites Renee Bracey Sherman, a U.S. abortion rights advocate:

When I started talking about abortion, the abuse on Twitter went to a deeper level. When I talked about BLM [Black Lives Matter], it went to a deeper level. That’s the deep issue of how much white supremacy and misogyny is really embedded in our culture. And people are upset when marginalized folks, black folks, women of colour, trans women, trans folks – when they reclaim their narrative and are unapologetic – it makes people uncomfortable. And this primal level of attack comes out and they just say such disgusting things.

What Sherman implies here is that abuse is the norm for many women and that controversial topics like abortion and race relations compound that abuse.

Amnesty International wants Twitter to be more active in responding to complaints and more transparent about its policies and practices:

… Twitter should be assessing – on an ongoing and proactive basis – how its policies and practices impact on users’ right to freedom of expression and opinion as well other rights, and take steps to mitigate or prevent any possible negative impacts. It is also critical that Twitter is transparent about its policies and practices and the steps it is taking to identify and address human rights abuses.

Visit the Amnesty International website for the full report. Be warned that the report includes descriptions and examples of violence and abuse toward women.