When Twitter released their #HereWeAre advert supporting women making their voices heard online with the rise of Me Too and Times Up, cynics groaned.
A website that has been called out time and time again for not tackling online abuse, seemingly capitalising on a movement to end sexual harassment against women. Twitter have claimed to be confronting social media bullying on various occasions, yet still now prominent women receive death threats daily, alongside torrents of vile, prejudiced abuse.
This is what led Amnesty International to launch their Toxic Twitter campaign, writing an open letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, which was published in Grazia last week in a show of support. Amnesty’s research found that 78% of British women using Twitter didn’t think they could share their thoughts on it without violence or abuse. Only 9% felt Twitter was doing enough to stop violence and abuse. Amounting to a platform amassed with vitriol towards women, the letter was signed by more than 20 high profile women including Dr. Helen Pankhurst, Caroline Lucas MP, Laura Bates and many more.
The letter reads as follows:
‘Dear Jack Dorsey,
You say you want us to use Twitter to make our voices heard; to join you in saying #HereWeAre. Well, Jack, Here We Are…
We’re exhausted, Jack. We’re tired of powerful men like you claiming to be our allies but not doing what is in their power to stop violence and abuse against women. We want deeds, Jack, not words.
We’re fed up of having to ask for change and action. But here we go again.
This is where we are. This is what’s really happening on your platform.
Twitter is failing us. It’s a toxic place for many women; a place where too many of us feel unsafe. It’s a place where the trolls are winning and where violence and abuse against women is rife.
Every day on Twitter women are receiving misogynistic abuse and threats of physical and sexual violence.
Online trolls are using your platform to try and belittle, shame, intimidate, harass and silence us.
Our bodies, race, ethnicities, genders, sexualities, disabilities and opinions – our very identities - are the target of violence.
Jack, you’re failing us. You’re not properly enforcing your own rules. Your reporting system isn’t working effectively. You’re not disclosing how many reports of violence and abuse you’re receiving. And you’re not being transparent about how your company is interpreting and responding to these reports.
We’re strong, brave, powerful people. We have the right to speak equally, freely and safely, without fear of attack.
We want to speak out on Twitter. We want to say #HereWeAre. But we want to say that without fearing for our safety.
Jack, you have the power and privilege to make real change here and set an example for how social media companies can tackle violence and abuse against women. Use it.’
Now, Twitter have responded to the demand for better protection and Grazia’s support of the campaign. Published in edited form in this week’s magazine, the full reply reads as follows:
‘The assertion that Twitter is consciously unengaged with human rights issues is an unfair representation not just of the facts, but of the ethos of our dedicated teams, and the core mission of the company.
We agree with many of the recommendations contained in the Amnesty International report. A number of the proposals represent work already completed or underway at Twitter. Abuse and hateful conduct directed at women are prohibited on our platform. We have made more than 30 individual changes to our product, policies and operations in the past 16 months. We have increased our action rates ten-fold.
We have made significant changes to our reporting tools and continue to improve them as well working to communicate more clearly with our users on reports and how we draft policy. We continue to expand our Transparency Report to include relevant and meaningful data. We have seen extraordinary engagement supporting women. The rise of movements like #MeToo, #WomensMarch, and #PositionOfStrength are testimonies to the power of Twitter as a platform for women and their allies to share stories, offer support, and advocate for change.
We are committed to understanding how we can better combat the hatred and prejudice within society that gives rise to online abuse and how we can encourage a healthier public conversation. We are an open platform and hold a mirror up to human behaviors - both the good and the bad.
Everyone has a part to play in building a more compassionate and empathetic society, including Twitter. Our policy, product, and engineering teams continue to work collaboratively to find ways to innovate to protect our users and enhance their experience, particularly as those in our society intent on harm find new ways to hurt and abuse.
We look forward to ongoing constructive engagement with Amnesty International and others to find real, lasting solutions to ensure women are safer and feel safer online.’