Margaret Eby
November 10, 2014 1:32 pm

Time for a horrible statistic: 25% of young women have been sexually harassed online. General harassment on the Internet through social media channels like Twitter and Facebook is also in the news now more than ever. From terrible occurrences like the Twitter abuse that Robin Williams’ daughter Zelda dealt with after her father’s death, to the threats lobbed at female video game advocates in the recent #GamerGate controversy, women online are targeted in a way that needs to be stopped and needs to be stopped now. Enter: Women, Action, & the Media, better known as WAM! — a non-profit dedicated to gender equality in the media — that has teamed up with Twitter to help combat the problem of sexist online harassment.

To give a little background on WAM!, the organization was a big force behind the #FBrape campaign which led to Facebook changing their policy on posting “cruel and insensitive content.” 

The idea with Twitter, is that WAM! will now start tracking Twitter users who are experiencing gendered harassment on the social media platform. People who are being harassed can file reports through a simple form, and WAM! will validate the reports, send them on to Twitter, and track the way the service responds to different incidents. The end goal is to help Twitter figure out what needs to happen in order for them to respond to online harassment in the very best way possible.

“At the end of the pilot test period, WAM! will analyze the data collected and use it to work with Twitter to better understand how gendered harassment intersects with other types of harassment, how those attacks function on their platform, and to improve Twitter’s responses to it,” the WAM! press statement reads.

Why is all this necessary? In addition to the 25% of women who have been sexually harassed online, recent Pew research also finds that 26% of young women have experienced stalking. The most severe kinds of online abuse are often directed at women and in addition to the emotional damage it can cause it also often results in women removing their much needed voices from the online conversation.

As WAM! writes, “We’re so glad that Twitter recognizes that the best way to ensure equally free speech for all users on their platform is to ensure that all users are equally free to speak without being targeted by harassment, abuse, and threats.” We couldn’t agree more.

If you or someone you know has experienced harassment on Twitter, here’s the link to WAM!’s simple form. Sharing your experience could help change the future of the Internet.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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