Trolling Verified: Troll Patrol India’s Findings On Online Abuse
With growing toxicity on Twitter, online harassment of women in India has become a menace. The perception of Internet trolls has captured the public imagination, from women either logging off to protect their mental health and safety or calling out their and other’s online harassers. Today, online violence and abuse against women has become commonplace.
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!
- Abuse experienced by Indian politicians around the 2019 General Elections was high. 13.8% of the tweets, or 1 in every 7 tweets was either problematic or abusive. This means, on an average, each woman politician received 113 problematic or abusive tweets every day.
- Women politicians who were more prominent on Twitter were targeted more. The top 10 women politicians who received majority of the mentions (74.1%) also received most of the problematic or abusive mentions (79.9%).
- Women politicians from marginalised communities were disproportionately targeted. Muslim women politicians received 94.1% more ethnic or religious slurs than women from other religions. Women politicians who are Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backwards Classes received 59% more caste-based abuse compared to women from General castes.
- Indian women politicians also received substantially higher online abuse than their UK and USA counterparts.
What Do We Want Twitter to do?
Twitter must reaffirm its commitment to providing a ‘safe space’ to women and marginalised communities. Until then, the silencing effect of abuse on the platform will continue to stand in the way of women’s right to expression and equality
Twitter needs to ensure that its policies are transparent, uniform, and based on human rights standards and gender-sensitive due diligence. Considering India’s linguistic diversity, Twitter should ensure coverage not only of India’s main languages, but also regional languages, with due focus on mixed language tweets where native scripts are used alongside Latin scripts. It should ensure that discrimination and abuse on the basis of gender, caste, religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation and other identifying factors does not prevent users from exercising their right to freedom of expression equally on the platform. Importantly, it must constantly and transparently evaluate and measure whether it is effectively tackling online violence against women.
Specifically, we ask Twitter to –
- Publicly share comprehensive, meaningful and disaggregated information about the nature and levels of online abuse against women on a country by country basis, as well as other groups, on the platform, and how they respond to it.
- Improve its reporting mechanisms to ensure consistent application and better response to complaints of violence and abuse.
- Provide more clarity about how it interprets and identifies violence and abuse on the platform and how it handles reports of such abuse.
Here is What You Can Do!
Please tweet Twitter India:
It’s times up for online abuse! @TwitterIndia, we need you to be more transparent on how you deal with online abuse. Take in to account India’s linguistic diversity so that abuse in mixed language tweets can be detected. Ensure that women are not silenced for sharing their opinion online.