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Women's Rights & Issues

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(114,184 posts)
Mon Feb 5, 2024, 03:39 PM Feb 2024

Rape Threats, Misogynist Slurs, Sexual Harassment and Doxing: How Online Abuse Is Used to Intimidate, Discredit and Sil [View all]

((very trigger-warning reading)

Rape Threats, Misogynist Slurs, Sexual Harassment and Doxing: How Online Abuse Is Used to Intimidate, Discredit and Silence
1/18/2024 by Viktorya Vilk and Jeje Mohamed
Online abuse is one part of a broader spectrum of attacks—digital, physical, legal and psychological—aimed at pushing women and nonbinary individuals offline, out of public discourse and out of their fields of expertise.

Eighty-five percent of women globally have witnessed online harassment and nearly 40 percent have experienced it directly. (tommaso79 / Getty Images / iStockphoto)

In 2011, I was a young student marching alongside millions of Egyptians to demand the removal of then-president Hosni Mubarak, who brutally clung to power for nearly 30 years. As I washed off tear gas and blood and patched up protesters violently attacked by the police and military forces, I made a fateful decision: I would leave my premedical studies to pursue a career in journalism to expose human rights abuses. Covering human rights abuses under a dictatorship was hard. Being a woman doing that job was outright dangerous. The government and its supporters tried to intimidate me, to take away my power and silence me, as they did with many journalists and activists. Danger followed me everywhere. From sexual harassment, stalking, physical attacks and constant attempts to hack into my accounts to threats of rape and kidnapping, it became a nightmare that swallowed my existence, online and off. Well-intentioned people suggested I leave social media, spend less time online and on my phone, or just quit journalism.
. . . .

Individual harms have systemic consequences. Online abuse stifles press freedom, chills free speech and undermines equity and inclusion. When online abuse drives women, LGBTQ+ people and people of color to leave industries that are already predominantly male, heteronormative and white, public discourse becomes less equitable and less free. Attempts to harass and intimidate women, nonbinary people and people of color are hardly new. But while hate and abuse are as old as time, the internet is just 40 years old—and it’s an amplification machine. We know that hateful, harassing and inflammatory content travels further and faster online, especially on social media platforms that rely on eyeballs and engagement to make money. Governments, political parties, corporations and other powerful actors have figured out that they can manipulate algorithms to instigate coordinated online attacks to intimidate and threaten critical voices and stifle dissent.

When Lebanese journalist Ghada Oueiss criticized the Saudi regime for murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi, disinformation trolls and bots linked to the Saudis tweeted death threats and sexualized, disinformation-filled memes about Oueiss. Indian journalist Rana Ayyub is frequently inundated with abusive comments within seconds of posting on X. Such volume and speed are hallmarks of coordinated harassment campaigns.


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