If there’s one good thing to come out of the #GamerGate controversy, it’s a greater public awareness of the type of threats leveled against Anita Sarkeesian and other women who dared to speak out against the movement. The absolutely vile and sometimes terrifying harassment utilized by GamerGaters was most evident on social media; that people are so comfortable threatening violence and death across platforms like Facebook and Twitter is disturbing. Following criticism about its inability to quickly respond to such threats, Twitter has partnered with Women, Action & the Media (WAM) to create an online reporting tool.
“The vicious targeting of women who speak up online has reached crisis levels. Examples of the impact these attacks are having on women’s lives are everywhere. Women of color, queer women, trans women, fat women, and other oppressed groups of women are especially targeted and abused. A recent Pew research study found that fully 25 percent of young women online have been sexually harassed online and 26 percent have experienced stalking. What’s more, Pew found that women overall are disproportionately targeted by the most severe forms of online abuse.
WAM! is running a pilot project to support all Twitter users experiencing gendered harassment and abuse on the platform, including abuse that intersects with racial, lgbt and other kinds of oppression users face on Twitter.”
The collaborative tool includes an online form, which will set in motion a 24-hour response and resolution to the harassment complaint: escalated reports to Twitter, and tracked responses. WAM will also collect and analyze the reports to “better understand how gendered harassment intersects with other types of harassment, how those attacks function on their platform, and to improve Twitter’s responses to it.”
Last year, WAM initiated a similar monitoring and response campaign (#FBrape) with Facebook; it did result in some companies pulling their ads (altogether, or from pages with hate-speech/photo content).
Easier reporting is at least a start for Twitter, but let’s hope the analysis and reporting sets something even more responsive in motion — perhaps a temporary account suspension when validated threats are reported? All social media services should make it perfectly clear that violent and death threats against anyone are completely unacceptable.