Nearly half of the accounts Twitter fails to remove for abusing women go on reoffend

Posted on January 12, 2022 in News.

Twitter’s misogyny problem has, for close to a decade now, seen women bullied, harassed, doxxed, hounded, and libelled on the platform. This abuse negatively impacts the women who are targeted for attack and causes other women to think twice before sharing something as straightforward as their opinion online, limiting their freedom of expression.

New research from CCDH shows that Twitter is not only failing to act on its promises to remove misogynist abuse and content when it is reported, but the rate at which misogynist abusers, when left unpunished by the platform, go on to reoffend.

It reveals that nearly half of accounts that target women with abuse on the platform are “reoffenders” who have gone on to post more misogynist content that breaks Twitter’s rules on hate speech against women and girls.

Those who’ve worked in the field of combatting violence against women have found that many misogynist abusers will go on to reoffend, and this has informed our own research.

In November we identified 288 accounts that had sent direct misogynist abuse, including racist comments and death threats, to nine high profile women including Kamala Harris, Chelsea, and Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, and Lizzo.

48 hours after CCDH’s researchers reported each of the posts using Twitter’s own reporting tools, 97% of the accounts remained active. Two months later, the platform had failed to act on 88% of the accounts.

Our new analysis examines 235 of these accounts whose messages are open to analysis and finds that 47% (111) have gone on to reoffend, sending more hateful messages to or about women. Of the reoffending posts:

  • 49% targeted a woman of color
  • 41% included the word “bitch”
  • 28% were about the target’s perceived sexual availability
  • 11% included conspiracy theories
  • 11% made hateful comments about the woman’s appearance
  • 10% included the word “witch”

As recently as 2019, Twitter’s head of UK government policy, Katy Minshall, told Parliament that “We are acutely aware of the unique experience women have on Twitter and changes we may have to make in our policies to get that right.” Twitter’s own policy on hateful conduct states: “You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis…of gender…We recognize that if people experience abuse on Twitter, it can jeopardize their ability to express themselves.”

However, Twitter still doesn’t seem to understand that misogynists will, if left free to abuse again, do just that. Twitter is not only enabling misogynists to amp up their attacks on women in the public eye, but normalizing the chilling effect that it pretends to care about.

Twitter’s failure to deal with users who repeatedly post misogynist abuse shows that legislation like the Online Safety Bill is needed to enforce minimum standards for platforms to meet for acting on user reports, with penalties for those that fail to act.

But it also shows that the Online Safety Bill must be amended to show platforms will be held to account for the harms caused by misogynist abuse and hatred.

Women deserve to exist free from hatred and abuse, and it’s time Big Tech started doing what they’ll actually say it’ll do to protect women’s right to freedom of speech.