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'Reclaim the internet' - how to create a more woman-friendly online culture

(43 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 26-May-16 09:42:42

Hey all

Justine's speaking today at a conference organised by 'Reclaim the Internet', a cross-party campaign which aims to tackle the growing problem of online abuse, and in particular, misogyny on social media.

To mark the launch of the campaign, Demos conducted research into the 'staggering scale' of the problem by monitoring the use of the words 'slut' or 'whore' by UK Twitter users. They found that 6,500 people were targeted by 10,000 such tweets in the space of three weeks - pretty appalling, but alas, not terribly surprising.

The campaign is canvassing suggestions for ways to make the internet a better place for everyone - and as we know from experience that MNers have a lot to say about how to create a more woman-friendly internet culture, we thought we'd ask for your views. There's a campaign forum over here, or you can leave your thoughts here on the thread and we'll feed them into the consultation.

Thanks all


SpookyRachel Thu 26-May-16 09:54:34

I think this is a really important issue. It's appalling that so many individual women are targeted and abused. People say, just step away from social media, but as The Guardian's 'the web we want' campaign showed, it's also affecting people's livelihoods. I was particularly struck by the Guardian's finding that, of the ten columnists who received the most online abuse, eight were women (of the men, one was black and one was gay).

But it's not just about individual victims. Online is a public space, and it's completely unacceptable for our daughters to be learning that if they speak up in a way that someone else doesn't like in an online space, they can be abused and threatened with rape.

eyebrowsonfleek Thu 26-May-16 10:57:14

I think we are going to see more incidents like GamerGate.

I have teenagers. I have tried to impress on them how what they type in messages and online is permanent and unless you know the person on the receiving end, there's no way to convey tone the way that you can face to face. It's so easy to type something that you'd never say in real life.

If my son was sending misogynistic messages or rape threats, I'd like to know. I'd be happy for the police to get involved. He's 15 so "talks big" and is impulsive so I worry that he could type that sort of shit.

My daughter is also a teen. Her online activities are social media with friends and Buzzfeed quizzes. Hopefully she has no idea about how dark the Internet can be but she reports that at school, girls have to put up with listening to some boys make crude, sexual comments. In y7 (first year secondary) she was in art and she heard a boy who was "normal" in primary ask another girl how often she fingered herself.

eyebrowsonfleek Thu 26-May-16 10:58:51

I wonder if things would improve if the real life identities of people who make rape threats etc are made public.

YouAreMyRain Thu 26-May-16 11:12:54

The police should start taking it seriously.

Female comedian Kate Smurthwaite gets tonnes of abuse on social media and the police won't act.


FlouncyMcFlounceFace Thu 26-May-16 11:43:57

There needs to be some sort of coordinated internet standards rather like the telecom standards of years ago.

People who were found to be abusing their phone use could be disconnected or suspended by their provider. It would be lovely for providers to have a suspension system. For example posters/ tweeters etc repeatedly reported should have their internet via the media they've used be it mobile or home suspended. We'd all have to pay a bit more for this though.

I know that people have access via multiple medias and access from different countries but theres a big hassle and cost factor in running multiple sources.

The police could still investigate criminal elements but lots of attacks dont appear to meet their thresholds and their resources are already stretched dealing with physical crime that we have to have thresholds or be prepared to pay much more.

HisNameWasPrinceAndHeWasFunky Thu 26-May-16 11:54:43

So pleased that this is being addressed. Following with interest.

BIWI Thu 26-May-16 14:11:36

My visceral reaction to your thread title interested me.

Why make it more 'woman-friendly'? That rather implies that as women we require special treatment and so, in a way, is rather a patronising statement, surely?

Why not make the internet 'human friendly'?

I'm not trying to write a 'wot about the menz' post, although I realise it probably sounds like that.

HisNameWasPrinceAndHeWasFunky Thu 26-May-16 14:21:24

It does a bit BIWI grin

Have you read the Guardian analysis of their comments? -

TendonQueen Thu 26-May-16 14:26:41

It's not so much requiring special treatment as requiring treatment like human beings, not objects of contempt. Read the Guardian story about their analysis of the comments to women - not men - on their site and the problem should become clearer.

BIWI Thu 26-May-16 14:29:10

Well yes, exactly - that's what I was meaning - treatment like human beings.

But I'm well aware that this could risk being the whole menz argument so I'll shut up now, as I a) don't support that AT ALL! and b) isn't what I was meaning to articulate

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Thu 26-May-16 14:43:36

Erm, the research being referenced showed that women were responsible for 50% of the misogynistic abuse....

Egosumquisum Thu 26-May-16 14:47:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HisNameWasPrinceAndHeWasFunky Thu 26-May-16 14:50:08

That's not surprising and I don't think anyone is claiming it's just men who are abusive online. Women can be misogynists too!

MrsJayy Thu 26-May-16 15:34:38

Tbh i think maybe looking at mumsnet threads where women are bashing other women would be a good start

Farahilda Thu 26-May-16 16:53:06

The BBC version highlights how much of the misogynistic content is posted by women.

So who is going to decide when women can be silenced? Because it's all going to end up as a subjective mess, isn't it?

Egosumquisum Thu 26-May-16 16:59:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TwoLeftSocks Thu 26-May-16 17:15:43

I know its just down to wording but I'd much sooner it was billed as a reducing-the-number-of-jerks-online-campaign rather than a women-friendly-campaign. It's a good idea though.

I think anonymity is key. While out can be great (esp on here) to talk about very private matters, it can also give people a perceived shield from behind which they can be complete arseholes. Not sure what the answer is there.

Theydontknowweknowtheyknow Thu 26-May-16 20:25:14

Glad this is being addressed but it's not just the abuse directed to women who produce content on the Internet.

It's the way some talk about women. Reading comments in YouTube is a depressing experience, littered as they are with words like "bitch" "whore", etc to describe anyone who they disagree with or who expresses a semi feminist viewpoint.

It makes it a very hostile environment fir women to even comment.

And if the comments are complimentary they are often of a sexual nature.

LubiLooLoo Fri 27-May-16 10:29:13

Name calling is one thing, threats is another. I've seen many threads where a woman had shared an opinion to be inundated with abuse. A few example of this include; "I'll rape you to death." And, "you deserved to be raped, I'd do it myself."

This kind of abuse also seems to be worse when the voice is from a women of colour, especially at the moment, Muslim women.

These trolls are threats, and I think they should be treated as seriously as any other threat. We need a way to police and put to justice people who make these vile statements against other online users, and send a message that behaviour like that is not acceptable and not tolerated.

TaraCarter Fri 27-May-16 12:35:55

It is a huge issue. I have a hobby that is female-dominated, and yet the youtubers are overwhelmingly male. Part of that may be a cultural confidence issue, but part of it is definitely the hostility online to women. It certainly is in my case- I am as competent at it and explaining techniques as many a male youtuber, but it will be a cold day in hell before I expose myself to the abuse and demeaning comments I would receive for being a woman.

Theydontknowweknowtheyknow Fri 27-May-16 14:17:30

I agree Tara. I often watch videos of an atheist nature and try to avoid the comments as they are horrendous in their attitudes towards women (and other races/religions).

A commenter was musing the other day why there were so few women in the online atheist community. One guy posited the theory that it was because women didn't have the rational thinking skillsgrin . I wanted to say that it was that the atmosphere wasn't welcoming to women (particularly those whose ideas didn't fit with the official viewpoint) but was too wary of the abuse I might get.

It just discourages participation. On videos about immigration the level of ad hominem attacks that non white people get is also bad.

chilledwarmth Fri 27-May-16 15:23:45

SpookyRachel while it is important that people feel they can say something without being threatened, it's also important that they understand they can be criticized and challenged by people who don't like what they said. They should not feel that they can be shielded from unkind words. That's the fundamental value of any free society. You can mostly say what you want, but others have the right to respond to you in a negative way, even if what they say upsets you.

I draw the line only where threats are made. Calling people sluts and whores shows a lack of any real intelligence argument, but there should be no legal penalty for it. If they feel that having an opinion on something makes you a slut, good for them, it just shows what a douche they are. The only time there should be legal intervention is when people make threats, like rape threats.

DependencyInjection Fri 27-May-16 17:54:31

It's very very simple to "reclaim the internet" GCHQ can back trace to who the abuser is. Then proper legislation with real teeth is used. The reason that people behave abusively is that they don't think there is any real punishment for committing crimes of abuse.

Take Jessica Valenti for example and the 1000's of abusive emails and tweets she gets, if the US Government was to fine each abuser $100 for each abusive message that they send then the Governments coffers would be much richer.

But then it would require Government to work with Telcos and ISPs and websites and for transnational cooperation, eg If abuse originates in the US at a UK citizen then what? Who does the fining? If Sony can have an individual fined for copyright theft, then governments can do the same regarding online abuse.

If I was to stand in the high street on a Saturday afternoon shouting the kind of online abuse women get with a copper nearby I'd be bang to rights.

I won't accept that it's too difficult to do as the noise to signal ratio of online abuse compared to decent use, because of the volume of data transmitted, given the compute power sloshing around the internet that goes unused, its just a case of having the will to do it.

So I think the only way the internet can be "Reclaimed" is for a strong message to be sent that it is illegal and the perpetrator takes the consequences of committing a crime. Online abuse must be criminalised.

SilverBirchWithout Sat 28-May-16 00:39:20

I think the sites themselves need to take more responsibility to moderate, control and delete quickly the offensive stuff that gets posted. The trouble is both Facebook and Twitter are very poor at acting on the more serious reports they do receive.

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