Online Violence Against Women

Make online spaces safe for women
Call out #ToxicTwitter

Amnesty International India has launched a campaign to address online violence faced by women on social media platforms like twitter. Online violence against women, that is, violence directed at women because of their gender, is a barrier to their enjoyment of their rights to equality and freedom of expression.

In 2017, Amnesty International polled 4,000 women in eight countries and found that over three quarters (76%) of women who had experienced abuse or harassment on a social media platform made changes to how they use the platform. This included restricting what they post: 32% of women said they’d stopped posting content that expressed their opinion on certain issues.

In India, research has shown that increasing access to the internet has resulted in more and more women facing online violence and abuse for participating in public life and sharing their opinions on social media platforms. In the recent past, journalists like Barkha Dutt, Sagarika Ghosh and Rana Ayyub, student leaders like Shehla Rashid, and actors like Swara Bhaskar have faced online abuse. Rape and death threats and other forms of gendered abuse have been directed at them for merely expressing their opinions online.

Our interactions with women from various fields, from home makers to lawyers and journalists to historians have all unequivocally said that they have been disappointed by the kind of responses that they have received upon reporting abuse to social media platforms, specially twitter.

CEO Jack Dorsey issued a plea for help this month, pledging to make the company publicly accountable on efforts to improve the “health” of conversation on its platform. However despite several requests from Amnesty International, Twitter refused to make public meaningful data on how the company responds to reports of violence and abuse, on the grounds that such data “is not informative” because “reporting tools are often used inappropriately”. Further, Twitter disagreed with Amnesty International’s findings and said it “cannot delete hatred and prejudice from society”, and explained it had made more than 30 changes to its platform in the past 16 months to improve safety and had increased the instances of action taken on abusive tweets.

Through its campaign, Amnesty International India will urge social media platforms like Twitter to follow their own community guidelines and policies. In addition, Amnesty International India will raise awareness on what constitutes online violence against women and how it can be tackled through better implementation of existing protection mechanisms, and document stories of Indian women who have faced online abuse to highlight the magnitude of the issue in the country.

Troll Patrol India

India is one of the largest and fastest growing audience markets globally for Twitter, a social media platform. Touted as a ‘safe place for free expression’, Twitter was envisioned to be a space where marginalised populations, including women, Dalits and religious minorities, would have an equal opportunity to make their voices heard. Over the years, the social media platform has evolved into an indispensable tool for political engagement, campaigning and activism, but has the vision translated into reality? Many women do not believe so. Every day, women on Twitter face a barrage of abuse: from racist and sexist attacks to rape and death threats. Online abuse has the power to belittle, demean, intimidate and eventually silence women.

It’s what women have long been telling the world. We now have the data to back it up. With the help of 1,912 Decoders from 82 countries and 26 states in India, we analysed 114,716 tweets that mentioned 95 women politicians in India over a three-month period around the 2019 General Elections in India. This helped us conduct an unprecedented analysis of online abuse against Indian women politicians on Twitter!

Read more about our findings here.


Celebrating Women's Voices:

On April 24, we celebrated women's voices in Delhi.