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Racism, misogyny & homophobia flourish unchecked on Twitter - study

The study, done by Amnesty International, was conducted using 6,500 volunteers from 150 countries, who sorted through 288,000 tweets sent to 778 women politicians and journalists in the UK and US in 2017.

Twitter logo. Picture: Pixabay.

JOHANNESBURG - A recent study conducted by Amnesty International reveals abuse such as racism, misogyny and homophobia are allowed to flourish basically unchecked on Twitter.

The human rights organisation released its Troll Patrol Report yesterday, which looks into abuse against women on Twitter conducted with Element AI.

The study was conducted using 6,500 volunteers from 150 countries, who sorted through 288,000 tweets sent to 778 women politicians and journalists in the UK and US in 2017.

Advanced data science and machine learning techniques were then used to extrapolate data about the scale of abuse that women face on Twitter. The results found that 1.1 million abusive or problematic tweets were sent to the women in the study across the year, averaging one every 30 seconds.

"Troll Patrol means we have the data to back up what women have long been telling us – that Twitter is a place where racism, misogyny and homophobia are allowed to flourish basically unchecked," says Milena Marin, Senior Advisor for Tactical Research at Amnesty International.

Abusive tweets sampled included ones that read: "you are dumb, DUMB and DUMBER. Go back to Cuba [sic]"; "I would rather hit you in the face with a large sledgehammer you white hating racist b**ch. Retire NOW!! [sic]".

“We found that, although abuse is targeted at women across the political spectrum, women of colour were much more likely to be impacted, and black women are disproportionately targeted [being 84% more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive or problematic tweets]. Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalised voices," adds Marin.

Amnesty International says it has repeatedly asked Twitter to publish data regarding the scale and nature of abuse on their platform, but so far the company has failed to do so.

“Troll Patrol isn’t about policing Twitter or forcing it to remove content. We are asking it to be more transparent, and we hope that the findings from Troll Patrol will compel it to make that change. Crucially, Twitter must start being transparent about how exactly they are using machine learning to detect abuse and publish technical information about the algorithms they rely on," says Marin.