Aug 18 2014

Internet Trolls, Sexism, and Rape Threats: What Women Face Online

While Twitter overflowed with eulogies about Robin Williams following his tragic suicide, his daughter Zelda found her account attacked by gruesome fabricated images of his death and hostile misogynistic tweets blaming her for his suicide. Zelda Williams was forced to abandon her account. Twitter responded by suspending the users who sent the offensive tweets and promised to look into their privacy policies.

However disturbing the tweets to Zelda Williams may have been, they are unfortunately common in the internet realm, particularly for women. Women are disproportionately targeted with harassment on the web, and according to a non-profit organization, Working to Halt Online Abuse, about 73% of people who reported online abuse were female. This rampant online misogyny has only become more prevalent as women speak out about the issue.

Jezebel, part of Gawker Media, is a feminist blog site which has recently put a spotlight on the excessive harassment of women online. Jezebel’s editors wrote an open letter criticizing Gawker’s anonymous comment system which allows users to freely submit sexually violent images as a form of commentary on their posts. Jezebel editors would need to manually delete these images and were unable to block offensive users. Gawker responded to the letter by issuing an apology and disabling image uploads to the site.

GUEST: Amanda Hess, a freelance writer, a co-founder of Tomorrow magazine and contributor to the forthcoming Book of Jezebel. She has focused extensively on online misogyny and recently wrote an article called “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet”. She is calling the anonymous harassment of women on the internet a civil rights issue.

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