Udisha Srivastav: It's High Time That We Regulate Hate Speech On The Internet

Social media has had a transformative effect on how people live, connect, and work. It gives women and other marginalized communities political, economic, and social empowerment, even as they fight lack of access, language obstacles, and security concerns. Still, it can be a double-edged sword.

Also Read: Stop Hostility And Online Abuse Against Women Journalists In India!

Why Social Media Matters For Women?

Social media have not only democratized information but have also assisted as a significant platform to connect the public in social and political matters. It allows for the representation of ideas and sharing of news among content providers, and users.

Amnesty International conducted an online poll across eight countries in the world disclosed that 23 percent of women had encountered some aspect of misuse or harassment in social media platforms, varying from 16 percent in Italy to 33 percent in the US.

Also Read: Cyber Abuse Against Women; A Hidden Propaganda?

In European Union, a survey discovered that one in every 10 women had encountered online gender-based abuse since they began using social media at age 15. Digital abuse such as bullying, stalking, impersonation, non-consensual pornography, revenge porn or image-based sexual exploitation, and most generally, hate speech. 

Sadly, it’s discovered that gender disparity builds a toxic techno-culture, where obscurity, mob mentality, and the online toxic data lead to women being often re-victimized.

Also Read: Women’s Access and Usage Of Mobile Phones In India Is Staggering

Growing Instances Of The Hate Speech On Internet

There is also a growing sensation of women dropping out of social media platforms altogether due to insult and harassment. Nonetheless, harassment runs throughout social media and starts growing. 

As per the study conducted by Amnesty International India discovered that through the 2019 elections, 95 female diplomats received approximately 1 million hateful comments on Twitter between March and May 2019.

Also Read: World Leaders Pledge $40 Billion To Advance Gender Equality

Indian women politicians also encountered substantially increased abuse than their UK and US counterparts. Shazia Ilmi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, said “Twitter is my workplace – but if my workplace is a battlefield, all the time, would I be able to contribute to the cause that I represent, easily and with fairness, if I am being constantly attacked for being a woman?” Moreover, women diplomats of marginalized castes received 59 percent more caste-based insults than women from other castes.

If Twitter is the medium accused of harmful trolling, Facebook has arisen as a hunting floor for fake profiles and sexually morphed photos. It is relatively simple to make these profiles and through the years, there have been many cases where vulgar or disgusting photos of a victim have been uploaded to fake Facebook profiles, resulting in the victim’s severe mental distress.

As per the National Commission for women, 54 cyber-crime petitions were submitted online in April of 2020 in comparison to 37 complaints received online in April 2019. The NCW obtained 100 cyber-crime complaints in June, up from 54.      

An international poll conducted by Plan International disclosed that 60 percent of girls and women have suffered harassment on social media platforms and one-fifth of them have either ceased or lessened their social media use. Such gender-based cyber chaos occurs on most popular social outlets such as Facebook (39 % of girls/women interviewed were harassed), Instagram (23%), WhatsApp (14%), Snapchat (10%), Twitter (9%), and TikTok (6%).

Towards A Safer Digital Space

A zero-tolerance policy and strict monitoring should be adopted for hate speech and abuse against women must be adopted by states and social media companies. 

Image courtesy: Botpopuli
Udisha Srivastav is a Freelance Content Writer with Femsay.com