On Twitter, a study says half of all sexist abuse comes from women

Birds-eye snapshot.
Birds-eye snapshot.
Image: Reuters/Benoit Tessier
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Half of all sexist tweets come from women, according to a new study. The research, carried out by British think-tank Demos, revealed the scale of misogynistic abuse on Twitter perpetuated by both men and women.

Demos monitored the use of the words “slut” and “whore,” which they used as indicators of misogyny, by British Twitter users over a three-week period. The findings showed that 6,500 unique users were targeted by 10,000 sexist tweets in the UK. When the broadened their search internationally, researchers found over 200,000 tweets using the same terms, which were sent to 80,000 people in the same period.

Researchers built algorithms to separate explicitly aggressive tweets from instances of self-identification and tweets that discussed issues of misogyny. The study builds on previous research by Demos, which found that women were subjected to more aggressive and abusive tweets than men online.

Demos was keen to point out that online misogyny was not restricted to Twitter, but prevalent across social media. Facebook has previously been heavily criticized for failing to tackle racist and sexist abuse. More recently, the social media giant was slammed for banning an ad of a size-22 model for being an “undesirable” depiction. Facebook has since backtracked from the ban.

The study was done for the launch of the Reclaim the Internet campaign, which calls for different institutions and social-media platforms to work together and tackle online sexism. The campaign has launched an online consultation to crowdsource new ideas on stamping out online abuse.