How the UK’s Online Safety Bill would help tackle online misogyny
Throughout this blog series, we’ve set out what the UK’s Online Safety Bill is and does, and how it would help tackle racist hate online.
So, how could the Bill protect girls and women from online misogyny?
In this blog, we focus on how the Bill would work to tackle misogynist abuse, in particular looking at research we’ve carried out on abuse towards women public figures and the promotion of “incel” ideology.
How social media platforms are failing
Like racist abuse, platforms have repeatedly promised to act on misogynist abuse but have failed to do so. Instagram has acknowledged that “seeing abusive DMs… takes a toll” and announced measures aimed at “removing the accounts of people who send abusive messages”. However, our research partnering with women public figures shows that Instagram is failing to act on 9 in 10 abusive DMs, including examples of image-based sexual abuse and rape threats.
Our research for the BBC shows that other platforms also fail to act on misogynist abuse. For instance, nearly 50 per cent of the accounts that Twitter fails to remove for abusing women go on to post misogynist content again.
Platforms fail to get rid of misogynist material even when it has clear links to extremism. CCDH identified one YouTube channel promoting the violent misogynist “incel” ideology that has over four million views and counted the Plymouth murderer Jake Davison amongst its subscribers. YouTube even failed to remove the channel after it was flagged by journalists at The Times.
How could the Bill help
The Online Safety Bill would force Big Tech to put systems in place to prevent the spread of illegal misogynist content and remove it when it is reported to them, including threats to kill and ‘revenge porn’.
The Government has also announced that platforms will have to publish standards on “online abuse and harassment” and be transparent with users about what action they take on harmful misogynist content that breaches their standards.
At a practical level, it will mean that platforms have an obligation to prevent women from being exposed to the most harmful illegal content. New requirements for platforms to conduct risk assessments, keep users safe and apply their standards consistently will also make it easier for women to report abuse and have it acted on.
Why should we care
Women and girls are often subject to hideous online hate. From bullying and body shaming to revenge porn and rape threats, the Bill could make it easier for women users to report harmful content forcing tech companies it’s dealt with.
This should mean Big Tech companies would be obliged to make their platforms safe for women, people of colour, and LGBT+ people.
Social media platforms are failing to keep us safe by putting profit before people. Their greediness contributes to online problems that have offline consequences, affecting all of us.
The UK’s Online Safety Bill has the potential to change the balance and ensure girls and women are safe.
Check back again soon and we will be explaining how the Online Safety Bill would have an impact on the hate and misinformation we find every day.