Huge Increase In Online Violence Directed At NI Women

The level of online abuse directed at women in Northern Ireland has almost doubled in the past year, according to new figures released by Amnesty International.

Incidents of violent online exchanges have been reported to police 1,220 times since 2015.

The crimes include harassment, stalking and death threats.

It is estimated that the figure could be even higher, but not all reports specify the gender of the victim.

The cases show a surge in online abuse directed towards females from Northern Ireland, with 433 incidents reported in 2017/18, compared to 276 in 2016/17.

Sinn Fein MLA Michaela Boyle told of her grave concern at the growth in online violence.

"Among these horrendous crimes is harassment, stalking and death threats. This is a traumatic and emotional experience," the west Tyrone MLA said.

"Online abuse should be reported to the PSNI and internet providers - we need a joint effort to eradicate it.

"I would appeal to anyone who is suffering from online bullying to reach out and seek help."

Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, Patrick Corrigan, called on social media companies to address the threats and abuse being posted on their sites and aimed at women.

He said: "These police figures show that social media has become a toxic space for too many women, where they face misogynistic abuse and threats of violence.
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"The fact that many women are feeling so threatened by online violence and abuse that they're having to ask the police for help shows how serious a problem now exists, and these figures likely just scratch the surface of a much larger problem.

"Amnesty's previous research, including in Northern Ireland, has shown that for far too long, social media spaces like Twitter have been allowed to become places where women can too easily be confronted with death threats, rape threats and more."

Mr Corrigan added that women should not be forced off social media by such threats.

"Social media can play an important role in public debates and in movements like #MeToo, but the online space must be made a safer place where women can express themselves freely without fear of violence," he explained.

"We cannot let the trolls win by silencing women and driving their voices out of public conversations."

In an additional study, Amnesty revealed the shocking scale of online abuse posted on Twitter that was directed at females across the world.

More than 6,500 volunteers from 150 countries signed up to partake in 'Troll Patrol', a unique crowdsourcing project that analysed large-scale data about abuse.

In a statement, Amnesty revealed their findings and urged the social media site to publish data regarding the nature of abuse on the platform: "We found that, although abuse is targeted at women across the political spectrum, women of colour were much more likely to be impacted, and black women are disproportionately targeted.

"Twitter's failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalized voices."


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