For as long as there has been an internet, there has been online abuse. While this covers everything from racism, anti-Semitism, and general cyberbullying, one area that has come under the spotlight in recent years is sexism, especially in the wake of Gamergate.
In the UK, five MPs - Yvette Cooper, Maria Miller, Stella Creasy, Jo Swinson and Jess Phillips - have launched the Reclaim the Internet campaign, which wants to examine ways of making the internet less aggressive, racist, homophobic, and sexist.
As part of the launch, the campaign has released data from a three-week Twitter study by think tank Demos. It found that there were more than 200,000 aggressive tweets that used the words “slut” and “whore” sent out to 80,000 people. While it’s a sad fact that this level of abuse isn’t too surprising these days, what does come as a shock is that over half the tweets were sent by women.
It’s important to note that Demos used special natural language-filtering algorithms that were able to identify when these terms were directed at someone in an explicitly aggressive, derogatory fashion. It avoided instances of "self-identification, and those that were more conversational in tone or commenting on issues related to misogyny (ie. referring to ‘slut shaming’, ‘slut walks’)"
As discovered by The Guardian’s ‘the web we want’ project, articles penned by women consistently receive more abusive comments than those written by men. It was assumed that most of these remarks came from males, but Demos' research suggests that misogynistic abuse often originates from both genders.
Speaking about Demos’ study, researcher Alex Krasodomski-Jones said it was not about "policing the internet" but was more "a stark reminder that we are frequently not as good citizens online as we are offline."