Hey Fellas, Stop Harassing Women on the Internet

It feels like we shouldn’t have to tell you, a man, not to go and DM unsolicited nudes or hateful, harassing messages to women online, but unfortunately, that shit keeps happening. So here we go…

A new report conducted by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found that high-profile women on Instagram face “an epidemic of misogynist abuse,” after researchers analyzed thousands of direct messages sent to five well-known Instagram users according to The Guardian

After examining 8,717 messages sent to actress Amber Heard, British television presenter Rachel Riley, writer and activist Jamie Klingler, journalist Bryony Gordon and magazine founder Sharan Dhaliwal, researchers found a deluge of misogynistic and harassing content like abusive voice memos, death threats, unsolicited nude photographs and pornography (including deep-fake porn). Researchers also concluded that Instagram, which is owned by Meta, does not provide users with sufficient tools to protect themselves or report instances of abuse on the platform.

For example, users do not have the ability to report voice notes sent to them or messages sent in “vanish mode.” It can also be difficult to download these types of abusive messages for evidence, particularly if users have another user blocked. Researchers found that participants who had abusive users blocked could then not access the full “requests” dataset. Additionally, Instagram oddly gives users the freedom to voice-call users with public profiles. 

“There is an epidemic of misogynist abuse taking place in women’s DMs,” said CCDH chief executive director Imran Ahmed. “Meta and Instagram must put the rights of women before profit.”

The head of Meta’s women’s safety division, Cindy Southworth, said the company disagrees with most of CCDH’s findings but acknowledges “the harassment of women is unacceptable” (happy for them), adding that Instagram does not “allow gender-based hate or any threat of sexual violence, and last year we announced stronger protections for female public figures.” Still, CCDH recorded an inordinate number of instances where Instagram’s screening process slipped up. Every 15 of the thousands of DMs analyzed violated Instagram’s community guidelines and the company failed to take action against nine in 10 accounts sending violent threats. 

While the study only analyzed the Instagram DMs of five famous women, this new research paints a distressing picture for all women active on social media. Receiving harassing messages, vicious threats and unsolicited pornographic content are way too familiar occurrences that often go unchecked or unpunished. 

Obviously, Instagram, and all social media platforms for that matter, need to implement stricter policies and moderation that will prevent abusive users and protect others from continued harassment. But you know what would also help? If you weirdos stopped messaging creepy, hateful and violent shit to people in the first place. 

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