Online abuse: Five things we learnt about trolling

Around 10,000 abusive tweets were sent over three weeks, with half of them from women, says report


A study released by think-tank Demos has revealed the "staggering scale" of abusive messages communicated through social media.

Over three weeks, 6,500 UK Twitter accounts were targeted by 10,000 explicitly aggressive and misogynistic tweets, said the report.

The research has been released as part of the Reclaim The Internet campaign, launched by Labour's Yvette Cooper along with her party colleague Jess Phillips, former Liberal Democrat MP Jo Swinson and former Conservative minister Maria Miller.

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"Forty years ago, women took to the streets to challenge attitudes and demand action against harassment on the streets. Today the internet is our streets and public spaces," Cooper told The Guardian.


Alex Krasodomski-Jones, a researcher at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos, said the study was "a stark reminder that we are frequently not as good citizens online as we are offline". He added: "While we have focused on Twitter, who are considerably more generous in sharing their data with us, it's important to note misogyny is prevalent across all social media."

Here are five things we learnt from the study.

Half of misogynistic tweets are from women

The study found that internationally, 200,000 aggressive tweets using the words "slut" and "whore" were sent to 80,000 people and that 50 per cent of them were sent by women.

Famous faces under attack

Celebrities are among the most frequent targets for abuse, says the Guardian. US rapper Azealia Banks, TV personality Katie Hopkins and Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton were targeted the most during the research period.

And teachers, too

Teaching union NASUWT, which is backing the campaign, says teachers are being increasingly coming under attack online. Half of the 1,300 teachers questioned in a survey said they had been targeted on social media in relation to their work. More than half of those who had suffered said the abuse had come from parents, an increase from 40 per cent in 2015.

Thousands seeking help over revenge porn

The Revenge Porn Helpline said it has received almost 4,000 calls in the last year, from people as young as 11, The Independent reports.

Facebook in the dock

Facebook expressed its backing for Reclaim the Internet but "acknowledged that it does not always take down misogynistic comments", according to the Guardian.

Twitter says that "hateful conduct" is a violation of its terms of service and that, along with its policies and user controls, it works with civil society leaders and academic experts to "understand the challenge that exists".

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