Report finds women abused on Twitter every 30 seconds

By Anna Gunther

/ CBS News

Hateful comments on social media are nothing new, but now a new report finds women are abused on Twitter every 30 seconds. The research from Amnesty International also found black women were 84 percent more likely than white women to be targeted.

Amnesty International said thousands of volunteers from 150 countries participated in their "Troll Patrol," sorting through 228,000 tweets sent to 778 female politicians and journalists in the U.S. and U.K. They found 1.1 million "abusive or problematic tweets" were sent to the women in 2017. In addition, the research found both conservative and liberal women faced the same level of online abuse.

"Troll Patrol isn't about policing Twitter or forcing it to remove content. We are asking it to be more transparent, and we hope that the findings from Troll Patrol will compel it to make that change," said Milena Marin, Amnesty International's Senior Advisor for Tactical Research, in a statement.

Twitter's rules on abusive behavior state that users may not engage in "targeted harassment." That includes attempts to intimidate someone else, making unwanted sexual advances or calling on other uses to harass someone. If someone is found to be in violation, their account can be suspended.

But the company has faced backlash for years over its handling of trolls. In October, political commentator Rochelle Ritchie said she reported Cesar Sayoc, the man accused of sending a series of explosive devices to Democrats across the country, to Twitter before his alleged crime spree. She said he previously threatened her after she appeared on Fox News.

She posted Twitter's response, which said it found "no violation of Twitter Rules against abusive behavior." Later, the company said it "made a mistake" in not suspending a tweet sent from Sayoc's account.

Hey @Twitter remember when I reported the guy who was making threats towards me after my appearance on @FoxNews and you guys sent back a bs response about how you didn’t find it that serious. Well guess what it’s the guy who has been sending #bombs to high profile politicians!!!! pic.twitter.com/xBY8FMbqnq

— R O C H E L L E (@RochelleRitchie) October 26, 2018

Another high-profile incident involved actress and comedian Leslie Jones. In 2016, she briefly left the social media platform after she faced a barrage of hateful and racist tweets.

In response to the report from Amnesty International, Twitter's head of Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety, Vijaya Gadde, released a statement saying the company is working on improving.

It says in part: "Twitter has publicly committed to improving the collective health, openness and civility of public conversation on our service. Twitter's health is measured by how we help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking. Conversely, abuse, malicious automation, and manipulation detract from the health of Twitter. We are committed to holding ourselves publicly accountable towards progress in this regard."

First published on December 18, 2018

© 2018 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Tony Dokoupil

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updated 7M ago

Report finds women abused on Twitter every 30 seconds

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