June 24, 2022

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For Prominent Women on Instagram, DMs Can Be a Cesspool of Misogyny

2 min read

A look into the private direct messages of five prominent women on Instagram found a torrent of harassment, including pornographic images and threats of physical and sexual violence, while the perpetrators typically faced little to no consequences, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The report, by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, an international nonprofit, was far from the first to identify the urgent need for social media titans to take further steps to curb harassment on their platforms. Many women using Instagram — especially those with large followings — have consistently reported feeling unsafe, and advocates say the relentless harassment threatens to cut women off from one of the world’s most popular online platforms.

But in opening up their thousands of incoming private messages to researchers, the five high-profile women allowed for a deep analysis of the misogyny they face out of public view, and how one tech company handles it. Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the nonprofit, wrote that Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, “created an environment where abuse and harmful content is allowed to thrive.”

“The intended effect of the abuse and the trauma of its constant barrage is simple: to drive women off platforms, out of public life, and to further marginalize their voices,” she said.

In a statement, Instagram disputed the conclusions of the report and pointed to measures it had taken to limit harassment. Users can filter out specific words from DMs and comments, turn off the ability of strangers to send DMs, or hide comments and DMs from users who either don’t follow or have recently followed them. It blurs images sent in DMs by people who don’t follow you in an effort to hide unwanted sexual images, and removes a wide range of abusive content.

“While we disagree with many of the C.C.D.H.’s conclusions, we do agree that the harassment of women is unacceptable,” Cindy Southworth, Meta’s head of…

Daniel Victor

2022-04-06 13:41:49

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