Four of the world’s biggest internet companies have committed to develop solutions that combat gender-based abuse on their platforms.
Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter have agreed to the Web Foundation’s two commitments for improvement that are intended to give women greater online safety.
Web Foundation Senior Policy Manager Azmina Dhrodia said the commitments were “a major win” for defeating violence against women.
“For too long, women have been routinely harassed, attacked and subsequently silenced in online spaces,” she said in a statement.
“This is a huge threat to progress on gender equality.
“With their resources and reach, these four companies have the power to curb this abuse and improve online experiences for hundreds of millions of women and girls.”
The Web Foundation’s framework for ending gender-based abuse online focuses on two priorities: curation and reporting.
Curation is about allowing for more ways for women to take control over the kinds of content they come across online.
This is about having more granular settings so women can better control who interact with their posts, simplifying the user experience to allow for easier to access safety settings, and proactively reducing the sheer amount of abuse women see online.
Reporting commitments will make it simpler for women to manage reports of online abuse with greater transparency and support during the reporting process.
Twitter recognised the negative effects gender-based abused has on the community.
“Abuse and harassment disproportionately affect women and underrepresented communities online,” a spokesperson said.
“It hurts those who are targeted, and damages the health of the conversation and the expression and exchange of ideas where people, no matter their views or perspectives, can be heard.”
We are committed to the @WebFoundation’s framework and to addressing the issue of online gender-based violence, as well as working with industry partners and civil society to build a safer Internet for all.— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) July 1, 2021
TikTok said it already has a suite of safety features designed to make the user experience more safety-oriented including comment control and by pushing a prompt asking people to think before they say something unkind.
“Over the coming months, we'll begin to develop and test a number of potential product changes to our platform that address these priorities and help make TikTok an ever safer place for women,” Julie de Bailliencourt, TikTok’s head of product policy, said.
“While we continue to invest in cutting-edge technologies and industry-leading safety teams, we also work to ensure our community feel in control of their TikTok experience.
Less carrot, more stick
Ginger Gorman, journalist and author of the book Troll Hunter, told ABC News 24 she was skeptical about the platitudes coming from some of the internet’s most powerful companies.
“These are commitments on paper and we don’t actually know whether they’re going to eventuate,” she said.
“The social media companies have been bleating about fixing cyber hate since at least 2006 and mostly what they do is just tinker around the edges.
“They don’t make the significant changes that they say they will.”
Gorman commissioned 2019 research which estimated economic costs possibly as high as $3.7 billion in medical bills and lost income due to the effects of online abuse.
It found women were more likely than men to experience online abuse.
“The abuse against women si more sexual, more sustained, and more violent – particularly for women in positions of power,” Gorman sad.
“Politicians, journalists, sports women, when they hold some kind of public position they tend to get attacked more.
“It’s a huge and increasing problem and I would like more stick and less carrot.”