Gender Trolling, A Deliberate Strategy to Silence Women?

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

Online trolling of women, particularly political opponents, human rights activists and journalists, is becoming an increasingly common feature in social media platforms. It must therefore be understood as a deliberate strategy to silence them or keep them in their place.

According to Social Media Victims Law Centre, online trolling is the act of posting damaging or harassing comments on social media to purposefully insult or humiliate the recipient.

According to a 2020 Online Violence Survey Report by Plan International, women admit to facing more harassment online than in the street. While the report highlights that girls are being targeted online just for being young and female, it adds that it gets worse for women and girls who are politically outspoken and for female human rights activists.

The report adds that the harassment is pushing women and girls out of online spaces, which are at the same time increasingly important for activism and advocating against inequalities and human rights issues, organising movements, speaking up about personal experiences, and finding a community.

Women in the civil sector use social media to highlight issues on equality, Sexual Gender Based Violence, Political Inclusion, Social Justice, Police Brutality, Proper Resource Allocation and many other issues. However, their outspokenness has made them a target of online trolling.

Online trolling of women in the civil sector is more prevalent on Twitter according to Amnesty Organization. In their report titled Toxic Twitter-A Toxic Place for Women, Twitter trolling has a detrimental effect on women’s right to express themselves equally, freely and without fear.

Instead of strengthening women’s voices, the violence and abuse many women experience on the platform leads women to self-censor what they post, limit their interactions, and even drives women off Twitter completely.

At a moment when women around the world are using their collective power to speak out and amplify their voices through social media platforms, the report indicates that Twitter’s failure to adequately respect human rights and effectively tackle violence and abuse on the platform means that instead of women using their voices ‘to impact the world’, many women are instead being pushed backwards to a culture of silence.

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