Women urge social media giants to prioritise their safety

Over 200 high-profile women have urged social media companies to address abuse on their platforms in an open letter.

The document has been signed by former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, ex-US tennis player Billie Jean King and British actresses Thandiwe Newton and Emma Watson.

The letter, addressed to the chief executives of Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter, asks that social platforms “urgently prioritise the safety of women.”

Yesterday the Generation Equality Forum was held in Paris, where world leaders came together to agree on a plan to advance women’s rights.

“This is a historic opportunity for you, the CEOs of some of the world’s most powerful tech platforms, to tackle one of the biggest barriers to gender equality: the pandemic of online abuse against women and girls,” the letter read. “The commitments you make today should be seen as a promise to women and girls around the world that you will decisively deal with the abuse that they are subject to on your platforms.”

Signatories highlighted that the scale of the problem, citing research that finds 38 per cent of women have experienced online abuse, with the figure rising to 45 per cent amongst young people.

The letter said that for women of colour, for black women in particular, for women from the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalised groups, the abuse is often far worse.

“A huge volume of this abuse takes place on social media platforms — and its reach is global,” the letter continued. “Your decisions shape the way billions of people experience life online. With your incredible financial resources and engineering might, you have the unique capability and responsibility to ensure your platforms prevent, rather than fuel, this abuse.”

The document urged social media platforms to give people greater control to manage their safety, by allowing women to have more choice about who can interact with them on tech platforms, and when and how they see content online.

It also asked tech giants to improve their systems for reporting abuse, suggesting that platforms could incorporate dashboards that show users the status of all their reports in one place, features to guide them through the reporting process, and tools that offer women access to additional support when it’s needed, could make a huge difference.

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