The Ripple Effect: Covid-19 and the Epidemic of Online Abuse

Glitch and the End The Violence Coalition, (EVAW), the leading coalition of specialist women’s support services, have released a report in response to the gendered online impact of Covid. In Summer 2020, we undertook the largest dataset into the gendered impact of Covid-19 online

Key findings include: 

  • Almost 1 in 2 (46%) women and non binary people reported experiencing online abuse since the beginning of COVID-19
  • 1 in 3 (29%) of those who had experienced online abuse prior to the pandemic reported it being worse during COVID-19
  • 84% of respondents experienced online abuse from strangers – accounts that they did not know prior to the incident(s).
  • Most of the abuse took place on mainstream social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) despite tech companies’ commitments to making their platforms safe and addressing gender-based and intersectional abuse
  • Gender was the most often cited reason for online abuse, with 48% of respondents reported suffering from gender-based online violence 

The full survey findings have been published in our new report, The Ripple Effect: Covid-19 and the Epidemic of Online Abuse.  The report also highlighted key inequalities in the experience of white women and women from Black and minoritised backgrounds. Black and minoritised women were more likely to have experienced an increase in online abuse, were more likely to modify their behaviours as a result and were more likely to feel like their complaints had not been addressed. If we’re to truly tackle online abuse, we can no longer ignore that women and non-binary people – especially those from already marginalised communities – are disproportionately impacted.

Our Key Recommendations
The government needs to implement a comprehensive public health approach to tackling online abuse, including providing clear recommendations to employers on how to keep their employees safe online, publishing national guidance on digital safety, particularly when working from home.

There is an urgent need for greater financial investment from government, tech companies and employers in digital education programmes and research. While this research is the most ambitious attempt to document online abuse against women and non-binary people in the UK during COVID-19, more research is needed into gender-based and intersectional abuse, as well as the impact of online abuse on Black and minoritised communities.

Content moderation on social media platforms needs to be more effective and transparent and give more control to users over their online experiences. Content moderation efforts need to take into account the ever-evolving context.

Resources
Along with our continued Summer 2020 programme, we also have a two page guide with top tips for working home safely.

We also have bespoke Glitch training for employers

If you’d like to support the work that Glitch does further in holding the government and tech companies to account, you can donate here.

Glitch is a UK registered charity. Charity number: 1187714
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