We’ve all known for the longest how toxic and abusive online culture can be, especially on social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter. No matter how much we talk about online bullying, Twitter trolls just never seem to go away. We know this. But a new study conducted by Amnesty International not only confirms it but has found that abuse on Twitter is especially harmful towards women of color. I wish I was surprised by that.
After repeatedly asking Twitter for comprehensive data regarding women’s abuse on the platform and not getting them to budge, Amnesty International partnered with Element AI, an artificial intelligence company, to launch a new interactive website called “Troll Patrol Findings,” which studied the abuse made against women specifically on Twitter.
“We have built the world’s largest crowdsourced dataset about online abuse against women. We have the data to back up what women have been telling us — that Twitter is a place where racism, misogyny, and homophobia are allowed to flourish basically unchecked,” Milena Marin, senior advisor for tactical research and Amnesty International told Wired.
In other words, it just confirms what we all already knew, right? But here’s where it gets interesting. Amnesty International looked into tweets that were sent to 778 female journalist and politicians from the U.S. and U.K. and discovered that 7.1 percent of the tweets that were sent to those women were abusive. But they also found that more often than not, women of color were targeted a lot more than white women and there are stats to prove it. When it came to abusive tweets, women of color were 34 percent more likely to be targeted with an abusive, toxic, or straight up problematic tweet than a white woman and this was even more so the case for black women who are 84 percent more likely to be targeted.
What’s particularly upsetting about these findings is not just the fact that WOC are often times the target but also the fact that for a lot of female journalist and politicians, especially those that are somewhat public figures, not being on Twitter is not exactly a chose. It’s part of the job or like Wired calls it — a professional necessity. These women can’t simply decide to get off and this leaves them more vulnerable to abuse, harassment, and even death threats.
“We found that, although abuse is targeted at women across the political spectrum, women of color were much more likely to be impacted and black women are disproportionately targeted,” says Marin. “Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silence of already marginalized voices.”
But why are black women being targeted at such disproportionate rates? I mean, if you really think about it, this is unfortunately not surprising at all. WOC — black women especially — are more likely to experience discrimination, blunt racism, and even physical threats or danger than white women generally speaking — not just online.
While platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have actually helped to promote WOC’s voices, it’s also made us targets for harassment. This isn’t new either. In 2014, research findings found that women and minorities were the biggest targets of attacks online and these platforms are really not doing enough to stop it. It’s time they took at least some responsibility for what’s happening on the platforms they are profiting from.