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Reclaiming the internet


reclaim the internet, new campaign, shocking level of misogyny on internetNew campaign after research unveiled shocking scale of misogyny on social media.

A cross-party national campaign called Reclaim the Internet has been launched to combat online misogyny.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper is leading the campaign alongside former Equalities minister Maria Miller, former Lib Dem MP and gender equality campaigner Jo Swinson, and Labour MP Jess Phillips.

The women  started the campaign by launching a public consultation via an online forum with the aim of starting a nation-wide discussion about defeating the growing problem of online abuse.

At the same time, they released research undertaken by Demos, a cross-party think-tank, which unveiled the shocking scale of misogyny on social media.

The use of the words “slut” and “whore” by Twitter users in the UK were monitored for three weeks from the end of April, and the study found that 6,500 people were victim to 10,000 aggressive and misogynistic tweets over that period.

The Guardian also recently commissioned research into the 70 million comments left on its website since 2006 and found that of the ten most abused writers, eight were women, and the two men were black. The ten least abused writers were all men.

Cooper is asking individuals, organisations, unions and their members, victims, employers, police and tech companies to contribute to their consultation.

Facebook has already declared its support for the campaign, but admitted that it doesn’t always remove misogynist comments.

And its stance regarding online misogyny and abuse is not as strict as its policy on certain photos, such as those revealing female nipples, posted on the site.

Contributors will be asked to comment on the following five areas:

The role of the police and prosecutors;

The role of organisations and employers;

The responsibility of social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, as publishers;

The role of individuals across society to tackle trolls and support victims; and

Empowering and educating the next generation.

The home page of the Reclaim the Internet website says: ‘”This is for everyone” – that’s what Tim Berners Lee said when he invented the World Wide Web almost thirty years ago’.

‘But misogyny, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, intimidation or abuse online mean that some voices are silenced’.

‘Forty years ago the “Reclaim the Night” campaign was launched to build a movement against harassment, abuse and violence against women on the streets. Now the Internet is our new streets and everyone should be able to feel safe and speak out online’.

The women behind the campaign are no strangers to online abuse – high-profile females in the public eye are often targeted on social media.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Jess Phillips told presenter Jenni Murray: “On three different occasions since I was elected I have experienced this thing called ‘dog-piling’, where suddenly there is a burst when thousands of people, largely from America I have to say, start talking to me.

“In the first instance it was about my rape – actually raping me – so there were people who talked about pouring molten metal into my vagina on one occasion.

“It’s very graphic, it seeps into my email, it’s on Twitter.

“More recently, after we launched the campaign, the response was to joke about how I’m not worth raping, as if raping was for better women than me.”

The reaction to the launch of Reclaim the Internet on social media proved exactly why the campaign is so necessary.

One Twitter user, for example, tweeted Yvette Cooper to say, ‘how long has it been since you’ve had a good shag from a proper lad. Wanna give you the long dick’.

I had a similar response to the article I wrote on trolling for Women’s Views on News a couple of months ago, including from one man who told me, ‘you big baby, grow up’.

Another claimed that ‘we must stop crying like sissy girls when a stranger types words from 2000 miles away’.

These are exactly the kinds of attitudes that Reclaim the Internet is fighting against.

Not surprisingly, it is often those who face the least abuse online who make these sorts of unhelpful and demeaning comments.

There is a key difference between constructive debates, and sometimes even arguments, on social media, and horrific abuse and threats.

And ‘free speech’ does not, and should not, mean that people have the right to bully others.

Online abuse has a detrimental, and sometimes fatal, impact on its victims, and it is high time we treated it as the serious matter, and crime, that it is.

We owe it to those who have already suffered, and to the young people who have yet to discover how scary and horrible the internet, and more specifically social media, can be.

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