Twitter partners with WAM! to combat harassment of women on the social network

7 Nov 2014

Microblogging giant Twitter and activist organisation Woman, Action & The Media (WAM!) have formed a new partnership with the aim of ending the harassment of women on the social media platform.

High-profile instances of women receiving vitriolic threats of violence, rape and death recently have included those directed to feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian, who is best known as the creator of Feminist Frequency and host of its web series Tropes vs Women, which often examines how women are depicted in video games.

Sarkeesian was forced to cancel an appearance at Utah State University (USU) last month due to security reasons. A threat promising “the deadliest school shooting in American history” had been sent via email to several USU staff members in the lead up to the event.

Leading video-game developer Brianna Wu was also forced to flee her Boston home in October after death threats were sent to her on Twitter relating to ‘Gamergate’ – a movement that addresses both accusations of unethical gaming journalism and criticism of the seemingly regular cases of sexism against women in the gaming industry and online in general.

Ending the abuse

In collaboration with Twitter, WAM! has launched a pilot scheme to support all users who receive harassment and abuse on the platform due to their gender. Users can report abuse by filling out an online form. Genuine instances will be brought to Twitter’s attention within 24 hours. At the end of the test period, WAM! and Twitter will utilise the data collected to help understand how gender-based harassment occurs and what can be done to eliminate it.

“We’re thrilled to be working with Twitter to make their platform safer for women,” said executive director of WAM! Jaclyn Friedman in a statement.

“The disproportionate targeting of women online results in them removing their voices from the public conversation. We’re so glad that Twitter recognises that the best way to ensure equally free speech for all users on their platform is to ensure that all users are equally free to speak without being targeted by harassment, abuse and threats.”

In establishing the partnership, WAM! pointed to a recent study by Pew Research Study that found women overall are disproportionately targeted by the most severe forms of internet abuse. Twenty-five per cent of young women online have been sexually harassed and 26pc have experienced stalking.

Online bullying image via Shutterstock

Dean Van Nguyen was a contributor to Silicon Republic