It's no secret that women face an enormous amount of harassment online. The recent debacle known by the hashtag #GamerGate is only one such example of this. Then there was the incident of the huge celebrity photo leak, another violation of privacy that targeted mostly women.
At the beginning of this year, freelance writer Amanda Hess penned a moving and disturbing essay on the frequency with which women encounter vitriol, anger and even death threats from online perpetrators.
The issue is one that Hess called the next civil rights issue, and now Twitter has announced its intention to help combat the abuse that women often face, specifically from male users. The social media platform has partnered with a non-profit called Women, Action & the Media (WAM) to create a new online form that allows women to report harassment and abuse. WAM will analyze the details of each situation -- who it involved, what kind of abuse was happening -- and then pass on the confirmed cases to Twitter within 24 hours.
After a brief testing period, WAM will use the data they collect to find ways to better understand how harassment on Twitter usually happens, and how to better deal with it.
The executive director of WAM, Jaclyn Friedman, said that the project is geared toward women since they disproportionately experience abuse online.
"The disproportionate targeting of women online results in them removing their voices from the public conversation," Friedman said. "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."
To see a huge tech giant like Twitter take this extra step to ensure that women feel safe and comfortable online is a big deal. Hopefully other companies will follow suit to shore up their policies and the technology that's used to ensure abuse is reported and deal with, instead of going unchecked as it often does.
For more information on how you can get help if you're experiencing online abuse, check out A Thin Line.