For Prominent Women on Instagram, DMs Can Be a Cesspool of Misogyny

Looking at the private direct messages of five leading women on Instagram, there was an influx of harassment, including pornographic images and threats of physical and sexual violence, while perpetrators generally faced no consequences, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The report by the Center for Countering Digital Hats, an international non-profit organization, was far from the first to identify the urgent need for social media titans to take further action to stop harassment on their platforms. Many women who use Instagram – especially those with large followers – report persistent feelings of insecurity, and advocates say relentless harassment threatens to alienate women from one of the world’s most popular online platforms.

But for researchers to open up their thousands of incoming private messages, five high-profile women face them from a public point of view and allow an in-depth analysis of how a tech company handles them. Imran Ahmed, chief executive of Nonprofit, wrote that Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, has “created an environment where abusive and harmful content is allowed to flourish.”

“The intentional impact of abuse and the impact of its continued trauma is simple: to keep women off the platform, away from public life and to further marginalize their voices,” she said.

In a statement, Instagram disputed the report’s findings and pointed to steps taken to limit harassment. Users can filter out specific words from DMs and comments, turn off strangers’ ability to send DMs, or hide comments and DMs from users who either don’t follow or have recently followed them. It obscures images sent to DM by people who do not follow you in an attempt to hide unwanted sexual images and removes a wide range of offensive content.

“While we disagree with many of the CCDH’s findings, we do agree that harassment of women is unacceptable,” Cindy Southworth, Matana’s head of women’s protection, said in a statement. “That’s why we do not allow any threat of gender-based hatred or sexual violence, and last year we announced strong protections for women public figures.”

Instagram’s policies were unable to protect the five women from a wide range of abuses and threats, the report said.

The women represented a range of public figures, leading in a variety of ways in entertainment, activism and journalism. Amber Heard, an actress, has 4.1 million followers, while Jamie Klinger, an activist who co-founded the reclaim This Streets group after the death of Sarah Award in London last year, has about 3,500 followers. The group also includes TV show host Rachel Riley in Britain; Bryony Gordon, a journalist and author; And Sharan Dhaliwal, founder of South Asian Culture Magazine Burn Roti.

When a message is sent by someone you do not follow, it is cast into a side folder labeled “Request.” For female public figures, it tends to be cesspool.

The report found that 8,717 DMs were analyzed, with one in 15 people breaking Instagram’s rules on abuse and harassment, including 125 instances of image-based sexual abuse.

“On Instagram, anyone can send you something private that should be illegal,” Ms. Riley said in the report. “If they had done it on the street, they would have been arrested.”

Studying the accounts that sent abusive messages, 227 out of 253 remained active at least one month after they were reported. Forty-eight hours after they were notified, 99.6 percent of the accounts remained online. (Instagram said the accounts were banned after three strikes, and lost the ability to send messages directly after the first strike.)

The report argued for strong regulation, accusing Big Tech companies of being unable to regulate themselves. Their commitment to prevent harassment was toothless and secondary to the goal of profit, the report said.

Meanwhile, women were left to create their own coping strategies. Some don’t like to connect with direct messages, but Ms. Klinger said it’s not an option for her, as she sometimes receives press requests to speak out about her activism.

Ms. Herd said the experience and ability to do a lot about it has increased his paranoia, anger and frustration.

“Social media is how we connect with each other today and that medium is far beyond many limits for me,” she said in the report. “The sacrifices I have made for my mental health, compromised, bargained.”

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.