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New study shows the scale of Twitter's misogyny problem

And a surprising number of women may have contributed to the abuse.
Press Association

When then-CEO Dick Costolo admitted last year that Twitter "suck[s] at dealing with abuse and we've sucked at it for years," he was addressing the elephant in the room and a frustratingly common problem for women on the platform. Although the company has taken steps to combat abuse and report real-world threats, the overwhelmingly negative attitude towards women on Twitter persists. And a new study from the UK has the data to back it up.

To quantify the woman-hating on Twitter, UK thinktank Demos looked for the words "slut" or "whore" in 1.5 million tweets sent by UK users during a three-week period from mid-April to May 2016. Using an in-house algorithm, the research team filtered out conversational or self-identifying tweets to focus only on those with clearly aggressive language aimed at another user. During that short timeframe, the study found "10,000 explicitly aggressive and misogynistic tweets" directed at 6,500 users in the UK alone, TechCrunch reports. Internationally, there were more than 200,000 tweets using the same terms directed at 80,000 users. The study also claims about 50 percent of those abusive tweets were sent by women.

For its part, Twitter's head of trust & safety outreach for Europe, the Middle East and Asia told TechCrunch, "Our ambition, in tandem with addressing abusive behaviour, is to reach a position where we can leverage Twitter's incredible capabilities to empower positive voices, to challenge prejudice and to tackle the deeper root causes of intolerance in society."

And Demos is quick to note that Twitter is not the only social media platform with a misogyny problem -- just the source of the data for this particular study. "It's important to note that misogyny is prevalent across all social media, and we must make sure that the other big tech companies are also involved in discussions around education and developing solutions," Demos researcher Alex Krasodomski-Jones wrote in a statement. "This is less about policing the internet than it is a stark reminder that we are frequently not as good citizens online as we are offline."

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