About half of the misogynistic messages sent via Twitter come from women, according to a new study published by U.K.-based think-tank Demos.
Researchers studied data from a three-week period, using an algorithm that looked at 1.6 million Twitter posts which used the words "slut" and "whore." These two words were chosen as a result from a 2014 Demos study that found they were the most commonly used phrases in online harassment.
About 213, 000 of those tweets were deemed to have been sent aggressively, while nine per cent were used for self-reference, half were related to pornography, and 58 per cent were deemed "other," for example tweets about slut-walks. Fifty per cent of the aggressive tweets were sent by women, according to their findings.
Alex Krasodomski-Jones, who worked on the Demos study, told The Guardian they were able to single out whether men or women were sending the tweets based on the algorhithm, by looking at who they were following – Beyoncé and Justin Bieber, for example – and determined the women sending the tweets "were ordinary women and girls, not a cabal of angry white men following rightwing activists."
"Men specifically have harassed several dozen women I know personally by threatening them with death and rape, and by making their hidden identities public to enable more harassment by more bad actors, also almost always men."
"There is the cabal of angry white men who might follow rightwing groups who are carrying out this kind of misogynistic abuse and there is a cultural and societal issue of women and girls using this language," Krasodomski-Jones said.
However, not everyone is convinced the study is entirely accurate.
Fusion points out it's difficult to determine whether a Twitter user is male or female, as the social media company doesn't ask users to identify their gender when they sign up for an account and "is notoriously unreliable when it comes to providing analytics about how its userbase breaks down according to gender."
Many women also took issue with the study, pointing out they found it hard to believe an algorithm could really get a clear, full picture of online harassment, which can be more aggressive than using the words "slut" and "whore."
"Describing misogyny as people tweeting 'slut' and 'whore' at you is akin to saying misogyny is really just calling people nasty names," said @femme_esq, a Chicago-based Twitter user. "On the contrary, men specifically have harassed several dozen women I know personally by threatening them with death and rape, and by making their hidden identities public to enable more harassment by more bad actors, also almost always men."
Clearly, there's a lot more work to be done to get a better representation of who's doing the harassing and what that harassment looks like.
Krasodomski-Jones noted, "This study was extremely limited in its scope and we would like to do more research.”
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