Twitter Is Taking Action Against Sexual Harassment

by Aria Bendix

Thanks to a new collaboration between Twitter and the nonprofit organization WAM! (Woman, Action and The Media), women on Twitter can now fill out a form against online harassment. In a climate where 26 percent of young women have experienced online sexual harassment, 25 percent have been stalked online, and 50 percent have been called offensive names (according to an October 2014 PEW study), this online form comes as a welcome addition to the social media sphere.

It's aim is to protect and support Twitter users from gendered harassment, as well as other forms of online abuse (racial, LGBTQ, etc.). After a complaint is filed and verified, WAM! intends to notify Twitter within 24 hours, and then track Twitter's response (WAM! cannot make any decisions as to how to resolve the problem, but says they will "do their best" to advocate for users). The process will begin with a pilot test to help WAM! better understand the nature of online harassment and how to respond appropriately. As it stands, the form's questions seek to discover valuable information about the severity of harassment and the forms of harassment that appear most often.

Here is a photo of the current "WAM Twitter Harassment Reporting Tool" (the rest of the questions can be found here):

Although they seek to learn more about the social media climate, WAM! is highly informed as to the need for this type of online form. According to Jaclyn Friedman, Executive Director of WAM!:

The disproportionate targeting of women online results in them removing their voices from the public conversation. We’re so glad that Twitter recognizes that the best way to ensure equally free speech for all users on their platform is to ensure that all users are equally free to speak without being targeted by harassment, abuse and threats.

Perhaps the most recent public example of this silencing of female voices is the news of model Chrissy Teigen leaving Twitter after receiving death threats as a response to some of her online sentiments. Teigan's criticism of gun control in America was met with a slew of horrific comments, to which she responded that Twitter "needs to step their game up":

Well, now they have, but only time will tell if Twitter's online harassment form is successful in squashing the haters. The sad fact remains, however, that people continue to feel licensed to treat strangers (and acquaintances) with cruelty and hatred behind the safety of a phone or computer. Although Twitter's new tool can certainly lend a bit of justice to the experience of online harassment, it won't keep the haters from coming in the first place. In addition to allowing women to report harassment, therefore, we must also look towards tackling the larger issue of violence, racism, and bigotry on social media.

Images: WAM!, Christine Teigan/Twitter