Social media abuse drives users away - GulfToday

Social media abuse drives users away

Social Media Giants

With more and more people relying on the online mode of communication, the abuse is suppressing the female gender’s voice.

Social media has captivated people’s imagination like never before. It helps people connect with one another on an unimaginable scale. Be it on Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp, people are constantly keeping their friends and loved ones posted about what’s happening in their lives, backed by interesting snippets, pictures, selfies and what have you.

But it is like a curate’s egg. It has good and bad parts. The bad part is online misuse has taken on alarming proportions, and driving girls up the wall. Online abuse is driving girls to quit social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, with nearly 60% experiencing harassment, according to a study. One in five girls and young women has abandoned or cut down on using a social media platform after being targeted, with some saying harassment started when they were as young as eight, the survey showed.

Attacks were most common on Facebook, where a good number of girls polled said they had been harassed, followed by Instagram,  WhatsApp, Snapchat, Twitter and TikTok.

With more and more people relying on the online mode of communication owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the abuse is suppressing the female gender’s voice.

The study found reporting tools were ineffective in stopping the abuse, which included explicit messages, pornographic photos and cyberstalking. Nearly half of girls targeted had been threatened with physical or sexual violence, according to the poll. Many said the abuse took a mental toll, and some felt physically unsafe. “It is time for this to stop. Girls should not have to put up with behaviour online which would be criminal on the streets,” the report said.

The survey polled 14,000 girls and young women aged 15 to 25 in 22 countries including Brazil, India, Nigeria, Spain, Thailand and the United States. Driving girls out of online spaces is hugely disempowering in an increasingly digital world, and damages their ability to be seen, heard and become leaders.

In an open letter to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter, girls from around the world called on social media companies to create more effective ways to report abuse.

“We use (your platforms) not just to connect with friends, but to lead and create change. But they are not safe for us. We get harassed and abused on them. Every. Single. Day,” they wrote. It is not just girls who are being targeted. In a major study, researchers have found that posts about refugees on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter may have contributed to hate crimes against them. The study, published in the European Economic Association, investigated how negative rhetoric about refugees on social media may have contributed to hate crimes against refugees in Germany between 2015 and 2017.

The rise of social media has meant that people are more connected than we have ever been in the history of time. But the reliance on the social networking sites can have a detrimental effect on mental health, with the average Brit checking their phone as much as 28 times a day, according to a report.

To help people cope with growing mental health issues in the pandemic, Facebook has a resource centre on the main app with tips and information from leading experts.

Facebook and Instagram said they used artificial intelligence to look for bullying content, constantly monitored users’ reports of abuse and always removed threats.

Twitter said it also used technology to catch abusive content and has launched tools to improve users’ control over their conversations.

Such steps could help, but they may not be enough. Social media firms should take more stringent action to bring to book those behind such abuse.

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