When Google recently announced via Tweet that they'd be working with a team of bad-ass feminists on a plan to end online harassment against women, the responses got really ugly, really quickly.
"Kill yourself, Google," one user Tweeted.
"What a bunch of uglies. Yuck," wrote another.
A rash of similarly awful tweets rife with sexism, racism and violence followed -- and sadly, no one was very surprised.
In part, that's because this sort of abuse has unfortunately become a nearly-standard experience for women on the internet -- a recent study by the U.N. found that nearly 3 in 4 women have experienced some form of abuse or violence online, and that it has a very real impact on the daily lives of the women who experience it -- and in part it's because the members of the team include Feminist Frequency's Anita Sarkeesian and video game developer Zoe Quinn -- both of whom have been victims of horrifying levels of harassment in the past. (They also both participated in the U.N.'s recent briefing on the "rising tide of online violence against women and girls.")
Google responded to the hateful comments in the best way possible -- by pointing out the obvious.
"The replies to our last tweet are precisely why we are exploring ways to combat online harassment," they wrote in a tweet that quickly got over 2,000 favorites.
The new campaign is part of Google Ideas -- one of several new Google spin-off companies aiming to make the world a better place. Their mission, according to the Google Ideas website, is to "support free expression and access to information for people who need it most -- those facing violence and harassment."
So far, Google Ideas has mostly worked to make the internet safe and empowering for people living in "repressive societies" where there are restrictions on free speech. This new project aims to do make the internet safer for the millions of women facing very real threats of violence online every day. It's still in the planning phase, but they plan to develop tools that will help to empower women and girls who are being harassed online to protect themselves and fight back against harassers.
The planning group is the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative (CCRI), which is working to put an end to "Revenge Porn" -- or nude images of people that are posted online without their consent, which Google just recently began taking seriously by agreeing to remove revenge porn from search results upon request.
"With the right tools, we can make the internet more free and open," Google Ideas states on their website. "Many of us take the internet for granted, but...a free and open internet can be a matter of life and death. We believe that technology can profoundly expand access to information for people who need it most."