If you’re a woman, the Internet can be a dangerous place.
One in seven women — and one in four women under 30 — have faced threats of physical violence, revenge porn, or hate speech online, according to a new survey.
“Tech companies are blind to this,” says Brianna Wu, the co-founder of Giant Spacekat, a software company that makes games with female protagonists. Wu is one of the many victims of Gamergate, the misguided movement by men who want to keep women out of gaming.
When it comes to dealing with this kind of harassment, she thinks that some social platforms are worse than others.
Wu believes Google is not strict enough about hate speech in YouTube’s videos and comments. If you search for “Brianna Wu” on YouTube, a number of defaming videos come up, including “Transexual Brianna Wu has declared she is the Godzilla of feminism” and “Brianna Wu’s ego and lies in seven seconds.”
“They [Gamergate supporters] have people who spend all day manipulating SEO to damage me and other high-profile women,” she says.
Google has had a reporting tool in place since 2010. But the content must be bad enough to meet the company’s “harassment threshold,” which Wu says is too high.
Reddit is worse, Wu believes, mainly due to its anything-goes philosophy.
On the site, hate speech often lives under the guise of “free speech.” And as The New Republic’s Navneet Alang notes, a free speech mantra, when let loose, often leads to harassment and hate speech.
Tech companies can help fight harassment by designing more streamlined reporting tools and employing more female programmers, Wu says.
According to Google, YouTube gives ways for users to manage comments on the site and report harassment.
“We work hard to not only address harassment through policies on YouTube but also through giving users the tools they need to set the tone of their conversations online,” a YouTube spokesperson told Tech Insider. “We’ve developed moderation tools that allow creators to better control comments on their videos and we’re continually exploring new ways to address harassment on the platform.”
Reddit did not immediately respond to request for comment.
“From the beginning, these was a systematic failure,” Wu says. “There weren’t a lot of women involved in the making of these sites.”
It will take a lot more commitment from tech companies to make the Internet a safer place for women.
Until then, messages like this one to Time journalist Catherine Mayer will remain the norm: “A bomb has been placed outside your home. It will go off at exactly 10:47 pm on a timer and trigger destroying everything.”
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