For the women who stand out on Instagram, DMs can become Misogyny lovers

When we looked at the private direct messages of five famous women on Instagram, we found a lot of harassment, including pornography and threats of physical and sexual violence, while perpetrators often face little or no consequences, according to a new report released Wednesday.

Report, by the Center against Digital Hate, an international nonprofit, is not the first to identify the urgent need social media giants need to take next steps. follow to limit harassment on their platforms. Many women use Instagram – especially those with large followings – have repeatedly reported feeling unsafeand advocates say harassment relentlessly threatens to cut women off from one of the world’s most popular online platforms.

But in opening their thousands of private messages to researchers, five prominent women allowed for an in-depth analysis of the mistakes they faced in public and how one tech company handled it. it. Imran Ahmed, the nonprofit’s chief executive officer, wrote that Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, “has created an environment where abuse and harmful content is allowed to flourish.”

“The expected impact of abuse and its continued abuse trauma is simple: push women off the stage, out of public life and continue to limit their voices,” she said. their say,” she said.

In a statement, Instagram countered the report’s conclusions and pointed to the measures it had taken to curb harassment. Users can filter out specific words from DMs and comments, turn off the ability to send DMs from strangers, or hide comments and DMs from users who do not follow or have recently followed them. It blurs images sent in DMs by your non-followers in an attempt to mask unwanted pornography and remove a bunch of abusive content.

“While we disagree with many of CCDH’s conclusions, we do agree that harassment of women is unacceptable,” said Cindy Southworth, Meta’s head of women’s safety. know in a statement. “That’s why we don’t allow gender-based hate or any threat of sexual violence and last year we announced stronger protections for female public figures. ”

According to the report, Instagram’s policies failed to protect the five women from a range of threats and misconduct.

The women represent a wide range of public figures, very prominently in entertainment, activism and journalism. Amber Heard, an actress, has 4.1 million followers, while Jamie Klinger, an activist who co-founded the group Reclaim These Streets after Sarah Everard’s death in London last year, has around 3,500 followers. . The group also includes Rachel Riley, a British TV presenter; Bryony Gordon, a journalist and author; and Sharan Dhaliwal, founder of South Asian cultural magazine Burnt Roti.

When messages are sent by someone you don’t follow, they’re moved to a side folder labeled “Requests”. For female characters, it tends to be a cesspool guy.

The report found that of the 8,717 DMs analyzed, about 1 in 15 violated Instagram’s rules on abuse and harassment, including 125 examples of image-based sexual abuse.

“On Instagram, anyone can privately send you something that could be illegal,” Ms Riley said in the report. “If they do it on the street, they’ll get caught.”

When studying the accounts that sent abusive messages, 227 of the 253 were still active for at least a month after they were reported. 48 hours after they were reported, 99.6% of accounts were still online. (Instagram says the accounts will be banned after three strikes and lose the ability to send direct messages after the first strike.)

The report argues for stronger regulation, accusing Big Tech companies of being unable to regulate themselves. The report says their commitment to stopping harassment is toothless and independent of profit goals.

Meanwhile, women have to come up with coping strategies on their own. Some opt out of direct messages, but Ms Klinger says that’s not an option for her, as she sometimes receives requests from the press to talk about her activism.

Ms. Heard said the experience and inability to do much increased her paranoia, resentment and frustration.

“Social media is how we connect with each other today, and that medium is pretty much the limit for me,” she said in the report. “It’s the sacrifice I’ve made, the compromise, the deal I’ve made for my mental health.”

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