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“In my five years on Twitter, I’ve been called ‘nigger’ so many times that it barely registers as an insult anymore,” explains attorney and legal analyst Imani Gandy.“Let’s just say that my ‘nigger cunt’ cup runneth over.”At this summer’s Vid Con, an annual nationwide convention held in Southern California, women vloggers shared an astonishing number of examples.Earlier this year, Across websites and social media platforms, everyday sexist comments exist along a spectrum that also includes illicit sexual surveillance, “creepshots,” extortion, doxxing, stalking, malicious impersonation, threats, and rape videos and photographs.The explosive use of the Internet to conduct human trafficking also has a place on this spectrum, given that three-quarters of trafficked people are girls and women.A Facebook page, labeled “Controversial Humor,” used Amanda’s name and image—and the names and images of other girls—without consent.
While some of the aggression against women online occurs between people who know one another, and is unquestionably illegal, most of it happens between strangers.
All of this raised a series of troubling questions: Who’s proliferating this violent content? But, as in the physical world, some users are more equal than others.
In other words, social media is more symptom than disease: A 2013 report from the World Health Organization called violence against women “a global health problem of epidemic proportion,” from domestic abuse, stalking, and street harassment to sex trafficking, rape, and murder.
An example: "A second Demos study showed that while male celebrities, female journalists, and male politicians face the highest likelihood of online hostility, women are significantly more likely to be targeted specifically because of their gender, and men are overwhelmingly those doing the harassing.
For women of color, or members of the LGBT community, the harassment is amplified.
In December 2012, an Icelandic woman named Thorlaug Agustsdottir discovered a Facebook group called “Men are better than women.” One image she found there, Thorlaug wrote to us this summer in an email, “was of a young woman naked chained to pipes or an oven in what looked like a concrete basement, all bruised and bloody.