Here are the article's different testimonies to the terrorism that people face - beware of strong explicit content:
A report, “Misogyny on Twitter,” released by the research and policy organization Demos this June, found more than 6 million instances of the word “slut” or “whore” used in English on Twitter between December 26, 2013, and February 9, 2014. (The words “bitch” and “cunt” were not measured.) An estimated 20 percent of the misogyny study Tweets appeared, to researchers, to be threatening. An example: "@XXX @XXX You stupid ugly fucking slut I’ll go to your flat and cut your fucking head off you inbred whore."
A second Demos study showed that while male celebrities, female journalists, and male politicians face the highest likelihood of online hostility, women are significantly more likely to be targeted specifically because of their gender, and men are overwhelmingly those doing the harassing. For women of color, or members of the LGBT community, the harassment is amplified. “In my five years on Twitter, I’ve been called ‘nigger’ so many times that it barely registers as an insult anymore,” explains attorney and legal analyst Imani Gandy. “Let’s just say that my ‘nigger cunt’ cup runneth over.”
Looking at 1,606 cases of “revenge porn,” where explicit photographs are distributed without consent, Citron found that 90 percent of targets were women. Another study she cited found that 70 percent of female gamers chose to play as male characters rather than contend with sexual harassment.
For some, the costs are higher. In 2010, 12-year-old Amanda Todd bared her chest while chatting online with a person who’d assured her that he was a boy, but was in fact a grown man with a history of pedophilia. For the next two years, Amanda and her mother, Carol Todd, were unable to stop anonymous users from posting that image on sexually explicit pages. A Facebook page, labeled “Controversial Humor,” used Amanda’s name and image—and the names and images of other girls—without consent. In October 2012, Amanda committed suicide, posting a YouTube video that explained her harassment and her decision. In April 2014, Dutch officials announced that they had arrested a 35-year-old man suspected to have used the Internet to extort dozens of girls, including Amanda, in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The suspect now faces charges of child pornography, extortion, criminal harassment, and Internet luring.
While she appreciates the many online tributes honoring her daughter, Carol Todd is haunted by “suicide humor” and pornographic content now forever linked to her daughter’s image. There are web pages dedicated to what is now called “Todding.” One of them features a photograph of a young woman hanging.
Around the same time, another Icelandic woman, Hildur Lilliendahl Viggósdóttir, decided to draw attention to similar problems by creating a page called “Men who hate women,” where she reposted examples of misogyny she found elsewhere on Facebook. Her page was suspended four times—not because of its offensive content, but because she was reposting images without written permission. Meanwhile, the original postings—graphically depicting rape and glorifying the physical abuse of women—remained on Facebook. As activists had been noting for years, pages like these were allowed by Facebook to remain under the category of “humor.” Other humorous pages live at the time had names like “I kill bitches like you,” “Domestic Violence: Don’t Make Me Tell You Twice,” “I Love the Rape Van,” and “Raping Babies Because You’re Fucking Fearless.”
None of this was of much help to Caroline Criado-Perez, a British journalist and feminist who helped get a picture of Jane Austen on the £10 banknote. The day Bank of England made the announcement, Criado-Perez began receiving more than 50 violent threats per hour on Twitter. “The immediate impact was that I couldn’t eat or sleep,” she told The Guardian in 2013. She asked Twitter to find some way to stop the threats, but at the time the company offered no mechanism for reporting abuse. Since then, the company has released a reporting button, but its usefulness is extremely limited: It requires that every tweet be reported separately, a cumbersome process that gives the user no way of explaining that she is a target of ongoing harassment. (The system currently provides no field for comments.)
When it comes to copyright and intellectual property interests, companies are highly responsive, as Hildur’s “Men who hate women” experience highlighted. But, says Jan Moolman, who coordinates the Association of Progressive Communications’s women’s rights division, “‘garden variety’ violence against women—clearly human rights violations—frequently get a lukewarm response until it becomes an issue of bad press.”
Here are some of the measures Facebook among others have been doing, along with some explanation of the root causes of how social media at times fail to implement measures to protect exposed individuals.
In December 2012, Hendren and several collaborators created a Facebook page called RapeBook where users could flag and report offensive content that the company had refused to take down. By April 2013, people were using RapeBook to post pictures of women and pre-pubescent girls being raped or beaten. Some days, Hendren received more than 500 anonymous, explicitly violent comments—“I will skull-fuck your children,” for instance. Facebook users tracked down and posted her address, her children’s names, and her phone number and started to call her.
Eventually, Hendren told us, she and Facebook became locked in disagreement over what constituted “safety” and “hate” on the site. Facebook’s people, she said, told her they didn’t consider the threats to her and her family credible or legitimate. Hendren, however, was concerned enough to contact the police and the FBI. The FBI started an investigation; meanwhile Hendren, physically and emotionally spent, suspended her Facebook account. “I was the sickest I have ever been,” she said. “It was really disgusting work. We just began to think, ‘Why are we devoting all our efforts on a volunteer basis to do work that Facebook—with billions of dollars—should be taking care of?’”
For all its shortcomings, Facebook is doing more than most companies to address online aggression against women. Cindy Southworth, vice president of development and innovation at the National Network to End Domestic Violence, has served on Facebook’s Safety Advisory Board since 2010. “[My organization] gets calls from Google, Twitter, Microsoft—but Facebook and Airbnb are the only ones who’ve put us on an advisory board,” she told us.
This is huge progress, she says. By inviting experts who understand the roots of violence against women and children and are familiar with emerging strategies to prevent it, tech is more likely to innovate improvements. The once profusely applied “Controversial Humor” label in Facebook is no longer in use. The company now officially recognizes gender-based hate as a legitimate concern, and its representatives continue to work closely with advocates like Southworth and the coalition that formed during the #FBRape campaign. There are ongoing efforts to improve user safety and identify content that is threatening, harassing, hateful, or discriminatory.
Researchers and industry experts are beginning to consider the effects of that context. Ninety percent of tech employees are men. At the most senior levels, that number goes up to 96 percent. Eight-nine percent of startup leadership teams are all male. Google recently announced that it is implementing programs to, in the words of a New York Times report, “fight deep-set cultural biases and an insidious frat-house attitude that pervades the tech business.” A computer simulation used by the company illustrated how an industry-wide 1-percent bias against women in performance evaluations might have led to the significant absence of women in senior positions.
Many Silicon Valley leaders—such as Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who recently acknowledged a “leadership crisis” among women in tech—have been investing in programs they hope will encourage girls to enter, and remain, in STEM fields. However, the fact that companies better understand the need to encourage girls and women doesn’t necessarily mean they’re welcomed. Despite the presence of visible, active and prominent women in the industry, according to one recent study, 56 percent of the women who do enter tech leave the industry, frequently stating that they were pushed out by sexism. This attrition rate is twice that of their male peers. As Vivek Wadha, author Innovating Women, recently pointed out, only 2.7 percent of 6,517 companies that received venture funding from 2011 to 2013 had female chief executives.