Developed by feminist group Ultraviolet, in collaboration with researchers at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think tank, the “misogyny report card” gave platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok subpar-to-failing grades for not taking greater steps to shore up their policies against harmful treatment of women. That’s especially the case for women of color, Ultraviolet wrote, who “face an onslaught of both racist and misogynist attacks, including vicious gendered disinformation campaigns.”
“Across the board, social media platforms fail the test when it comes to creating an internet experience that is safe and inclusive for Black women, women of color, and LGBTQ people,” Ultraviolent wrote in its findings, released Wednesday, which dozens of advocacy groups are rallying around to call for policy changes.
The report card, which assigned sites letter grades from A to F based on how thoroughly they have implemented recommendations that groups say are needed to curb gendered abuse, gave top overall marks to Reddit with a C and Twitter with a C-minus.
The group credited Reddit and Twitter with having “fairly robust” policies against hate speech, but say the platforms should expand their policies against gender-related forms of disinformation, including about “abortion, pregnancy, eating disorders, and extreme dieting.” They also praised Reddit for partnering with a mental health text line that helps victims of harassment or abuse.
“Reddit, the platform once known as a haven for white supremacy and misogyny, has set itself apart as an industry leader in the last two years by making robust changes to its hate speech policies, as well as to moderation and enforcement,” they wrote.
Reddit spokeswoman Cameron Njaa said their policies “prohibit content that promotes hate based on identity or vulnerability, including gender-based hateful content,” as well as abuse, harassment, content that poses a risk to physical harm and content manipulated to mislead. Twitter spokesperson Elizabeth Busby said that the “65% of the abusive content we action is surfaced proactively for human review” adding that they “acknowledge want to reiterate our commitment to ensuring that Twitter doesn’t become a forum that facilitates abuse.”
Facebook and Instagram drew the lowest marks, with a D-minus and an F, while TikTok and Google-owned YouTube fell in between, earning a D-plus and a D, respectively.
The group called Facebook’s enforcement of its policies against harassment and disinformation “slow” and said the company “fails victims of harassment by putting the burden on them to report each individual post and user." And they argued that Instagram needs to do more to differentiate its policies from Facebook to address problems that are more pronounced on video- and image-based platforms, such as body image issues.
Cindy Southworth, head of women’s safety for Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta, said the “analysis ignores all of the work we do to protect people on our platform from different forms of abuse,” including efforts to “make it easier to report harmful comments and accounts."
TikTok was praised for setting “the industry standard on transparency reports” but criticized for its policies on user bans and suspensions. TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza said the platform removes “misogyny, transphobia, white supremacy, and other hateful ideologies,” and works with outside experts “to bring trusted information on harassment, sexual assault, [and] eating disorders” to users.
YouTube was criticized for allowing “extremist content” and for not broadening its policies against gender-based misinformation. YouTube spokesperson Jack Malon said the company has policies against hate speech, harassment and misinformation that prohibit “promoting violence, hatred, threats, or harmful conspiracy theories” that target users based on “intrinsic attributes, including gender, sex, or race."
While Twitter and Instagram were on opposite ends of the grading curve, both came under fire this week for not taking more forceful action against a violent post directed at one of its most prominent female users: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) late Sunday posted to Twitter and Instagram an altered, animated video that depicts him killing Ocasio-Cortez, one of Congress’ most prominent women of color, as Felicia Sonmez reported. It prompted calls for his accounts to be suspended or banned.
Twitter said late Monday that the tweet violated its policies against “hateful conduct” and that it placed a “public interest notice” on the tweet, which limits users’ ability to engage with it. Since the incident, Instagram limited users’ ability to comment on the post and on Tuesday added a “sensitive content” warning to the post.
Feminist advocates said the incident served as a reminder of how social networks are failing women, including high-profile users like Ocasio-Cortez.
“While it’s no secret that social media platforms can be toxic places for women of color, Gosar's perpetuation [of] violence against Rep. Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter is completely unacceptable,” Bridget Todd, communications director at UltraViolet, said in a statement Tuesday.
The groups wrote that while social media was once seen as a way to “encourage empathy and diversity, and advance democracy,” the companies must now “make a choice between pursuing those worthy ideals or continuing to drown the digital and physical worlds in hate, extremism, disinformation, and violence.”
Our top tabs
E.U. court dismisses Google's appeal of $2.8 billion antitrust fine
The move deals a major blow to the search giant's efforts to stave off major fines it has racked up in Europe amid heightened antitrust scrutiny globally, Perry Stein and Cat Zakrzewski report.
“The appeal is over a 2017 fine from the European Commission, which said the company illegally promoted its own shopping comparison service in search results, while demoting those of competitors. At the time, the fine was the largest that the E.U. had ever levied against a company for an antitrust abuse and was widely seen as a sign of the threat that European regulators could pose to tech companies,” Perry and Cat write.
“Google stood by its practices in a statement Wednesday, arguing that its shopping methods have quickly connected people with products and helped sellers reach potential customers. The company said it made changes in 2017 to its European shopping comparison services, enabling more products to show up in searches.”
Judge sides with Apple rival Epic in dispute over adding external payment options to apps
The ruling by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers means that Apple has until Dec. 9 to let app developers add buttons to external ways of paying in apps, the Verge’s Adi Robertson writes. Her opinion came after a Tuesday ruling where Apple asked for more time to rewrite its rules that don’t allow developers to “steer” app users to payment methods outside its App Store.
Apple plans to ask an appeals court to block the order. “Apple believes no additional business changes should be required to take effect until all appeals in this case are resolved,” an Apple spokesperson told the Verge. “We intend to ask the Ninth Circuit for a stay based on these circumstances.”
Facebook is limiting some ad targeting, but the move probably won’t have a huge impact
The move will limit advertisers’ ability to deliver ads to people based on the political, religious or health-related content they’ve accessed on the platform. But advertisers will still be able to use advertising strategies criticized as “microtargeting,” like selecting “custom audiences” based on visits to a particular website, Craig Timberg reports.
“The changes, which take effect in January, would in some cases prevent targeting based on interests Facebook users demonstrate on the platform, such as accessing content that suggests an interest in particular health issues, sexual orientation, religious practices or political causes,” Craig writes. Graham Mudd, Facebook parent Meta’s vice president for marketing and ads, wrote that those are “topics people may perceive as sensitive” and aren't appropriate for ad targeting.
Rant and rave
Twitter launched its Twitter Blue subscription service in the United States on Tuesday. Its advertising video raised some eyebrows. Video game UX consultant Celia Hodent:
Other users noted that they won't be able to say that the site is free. Writer Thor Benson:
Twitter Blue also includes a feature designed to give users a “chance to preview and revise your tweet before it’s posted for the world to see.” Users continued to push for the ability to edit tweets that have already been posted. Writer Tara Dublin:
Inside the industry
- Antonio García Martínez is joining the Lincoln Network as a senior fellow on its policy team. García Martínez is author of “Chaos Monkeys.” He was briefly an Apple employee this year before 2,000 employees signed a petition calling for an investigation into “how his published views on women and people of color were missed or ignored.”
- Former undersecretary of defense Michèle Flournoy, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Shield AI co-founder Brandon Tseng discuss the U.S. military's digital transformation at a Washington Post Live event on Thursday at noon.
- Peter Harrell, the National Security Council’s senior director for international economics and competitiveness, discusses European digital trade regulations at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event on Friday at 1 p.m.
- The Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder launches its final set of recommendations for addressing misinformation and disinformation on Nov. 15 at 3 p.m.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee, speaks at a Center for American Progress event on the future of technology regulation on Nov. 16 at 4 p.m.