In the past, many people have pointed out that Twitter does not do enough to take action against those who harass and abuse women online. The threats often take a violent turn, also becoming sexual in nature, and have adverse impact on women’s right to expression as well as mental well-being. In an attempt to address this, Amnesty International India has launched an initiative called Troll Patrol.
The non-governmental organisation has called for volunteers to analyse abusive tweets directed at women politicians in India during the 2019 general elections. Arguing that while both men and women face online abuse, the abuse that women leaders face gets gendered due to the fact that they have participated in politics. This is true offline as well; a case in point is the derogatory and misogynistic letter circulated against AAP’s Atishi, allegedly by cricketer turned politician Gautam Gambhir, which attacked her character and family, even calling her “mixed breed” and “prostitute”.
“Women from religious and ethnic minorities, transwomen, queer women, and Dalit women are further targeted due to their marginalised status (sic),” a media release by Amnesty says.
For this, the organisation will engage 2000 “decoders” from across the country to analyse thousands of tweets before, during and after the elections. Each tweet will go through multiple decoders; each will be unaware of how the others have analysed the tweet. The decoders will mark the tweets on criteria such as type, language, etc. With this, the organisation hopes to get a sense of the extent, nature, and demographics among women politicians who face online abuse and/or trolling.
Apart from being given some basic training about analysing tweets, they will also be provided support to deal with the effects of exposure to explicit sexist, racist, casteist, ethnic or religious slurs, and homophobic language, which can be triggering.
Amnesty will then publish their findings in a bid to make Twitter more responsive towards these issues on its platform.
“Online abuse silences women - it leads to self-censorship, limiting what women post, or leads to them leaving Twitter altogether. It also has a strong negative impact on mental well-being and perceptions of offline safety,” said Reena Tete, Manager, Gender and Identity, Amnesty India. “Twitter is an important online space for women to express themselves. And all efforts must be taken to prevent the spread of toxicity, hate and violence against women on the platform,” she added.
You can volunteer as a decoder by clicking here.