Amnesty welcomes Belfast Council motion on social media
Recent Amnesty International research finds that ‘toxic’ Twitter and other social media is failing women by letting online abuse thrive
“We cannot let the trolls win by silencing women and driving their voices out of public conversations” – Grainne Teggart
Belfast City Council will tonight debate a motion brought forward by Councillor Sian O’Neill and seconded by Councillor Kate Nicholl on social media misogyny and bullying.
The council motion calls on Twitter and other social mediums to address the failure of their companies to meet their responsibilities regarding the threats of violence and abuse directed at women.
Amnesty recently published its ‘Toxic Twitter’ report - the result of interviews with more than 80 women across NI, UK and USA - which exposed how Twitter is failing to respect women’s rights. The report warned the social media company that it must take concrete steps to improve how it identifies, addresses and prevents violence and abuse against women on the platform.
Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Campaigns Manager, said:
“We commend Councillors O’Neill and Nicholl for bringing forward this motion to tackle social media abuse against women.
“Social media companies, including Twitter, are failing to protect women from online violence and abuse. All too often social media sites are a toxic space for women, where they are met with sexist and misogynistic abuse and threats of violence simply for expressing opinion.
“Figures in public and political life are often particular targets, but people who aren’t in the public eye are also experiencing abuse - especially if they speak out about issues like sexism and use campaign hashtags such as #MeToo.
“This is wholly unacceptable. We cannot let the trolls win by silencing women and driving their voices out of public conversations. Women must be able to speak out without fear of violence and abuse.
“Like all businesses, social media companies have a responsibility to respect human rights, including the rights to live free from discrimination and violence and to freedom of expression and opinion.”
The council motion
The council motion reads: “This council stands by women from all backgrounds and political persuasions to be able to express themselves on social media without the risk of misogynistic or sexist abuse.
“As a council, we call on Twitter and other social mediums to address the failure of their companies to meet their responsibilities regarding the threats of violence and abuse directed at women.
“These failures mean that many feel they are no longer able to express themselves freely on social media platforms without fear of attacks.”
Amnesty’s #ToxicTwitter report outlines concrete recommendations for Twitter to become a safer and less toxic place for women. These include:
- publicly sharing meaningful information about the nature and levels of violence and abuse against women, and how they respond to it;
- improving reporting mechanisms to ensure consistent application and better response to complaints of violence and abuse;
- providing more clarity about how it interprets and identifies violence and abuse on the platform, and how it handles reports of such abuse;
- undertaking more proactive measures in educating users and raising awareness about security and privacy features on the platform.