File under “yeah, we know:” A new study from Amnesty International analyzing tweets directed at female politicians and journalists found that, well, people online aren’t particularly nice to female politicians and journalists. Working with Element AI, an artificial intelligence software company, Amnesty International looked at 228,000 tweets sent to 778 women politicians and journalists in the UK and the U.S. in 2017. Several thousand volunteers — deemed the “troll patrol” — helped in sorting through the content. Their findings seems to be consistent with what any woman with a public-facing profession who has spent time online would tell you about their experience. Which is to say … it’s bad.
During the course of the year, the women in the study received 1.1 million abusive tweets, as estimated by Element AI. That translates to one abusive tweet every 30 seconds. (About 7.1 percent of all of the tweets analyzed, if you want to get technical.) The journalists came from a number of different outlets, including the New York Times, The Sun, and Breitbart, and politicians were of varying party affiliations. Across the board, women of color were 34 percent more likely to face abusive tweets, and black women were particularly targeted. They were 84 percent more likely to be sent hateful tweets than the white women in the study. “Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalized voices,” Milena Marin, senior advisor for tactical research at Amnesty International, said in a release.
The point of the study was not, as it might seem, to point out the obvious: that Twitter, despite its goods, can be a hotbed for abuse and violence and hate. Amnesty International hopes it can work with Twitter to help make it a more hospitable place. The organization’s regquests include greater transparency from Twitter, and that the company “make(s) available meaningful and comprehensive data regarding the scale and nature of abuse on their platform, as well as how they are addressing it.” They asked this earlier in 2018 after conducting a similar study which found that Twitter “violates women’s human rights.” Twitter, though, has still not addressed the request.