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Action to tackle online abuse of women in politics cannot come soon enough

Published: Friday, October 02, 2020

The National Women’s Council (NWC) today called on social media companies to proactively tackle online abuse of women in politics at its Online Harassment webinar in partnership with the European Parliament.

Speakers at the event included Gina Miller, Transparency Campaigner and Businesswoman, Maria Walsh, MEP, Hazel Chu, Lord Mayor of Dublin, Colm O'Gorman, Amnesty International Ireland and Tom Felle, Head of Journalism and Communications, NUIG & former journalist

The event was chaired by Orla O’Connor, Director, NWC. 

Orla O’Connor, Director of NWC said,

“We know that women in politics are much more likely to experience serious and unrelenting online abuse just for the fact that they are a woman speaking out. For women from minority backgrounds sexist abuse is often compounded by issues such as racism and homophobia.

The harassment has a significant impact on the women and their staff who are monitoring the accounts and are exposed to the abuse on a day to day basis. But it also has wider implications for democracy when many women do not run for office out of fear of being abused and harassed online. There is no place for abuse and personal threats in a democratic debate. We call on social media companies to take online abuse much more seriously and be proactive in tackling it so that women, including women in politics, are safe on their platforms.”

Hazel Chu, Lord Mayor of Dublin said,

‘‘We need to acknowledge that online abuse happens – often when women are questioned about being harassed online, they are not believed. This has echoes of the #MetToo movement and #IBelieveHer. Survivors of online abuse need increased supports to report it and feel supported.

Social media companies need to step up to the mark and they have a direct obligation to users, especially those being abused on their platforms. As one of the female politicians who receives frequent online abuse, action to tackle it cannot come soon enough for me and for everyone.’’

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland,

“Amnesty’s research on Twitter showed that nearly a quarter of the women we surveyed across eight countries had experienced online abuse, with 41% of these women saying that on at least one occasion they felt that that their physical safety was threatened.

We know that women in the public eye, especially from marginalised communities, are often targeted relentlessly. Social media companies are not doing enough to tackle the deluge of abuse women face online which leads many women to silence or censor themselves on these platforms. The persistent abuse women face online undermines their right to express themselves equally, freely and without fear. Online platforms must take real, concrete steps to prevent this" 

The event is at 2:30 pm today and can be viewed on: https://www.facebook.com/NationalWomensCouncilofIreland


For more information, please contact Silke Paasche, Head of Communications, NWC, Tel. 085 858 9104.