“Saggy tits.” The writer Anna Pacheco has read that insult referring to his own body at least a hundred times since in March 2020 he went to give a feminist talk to the students of the academy of Triumph operation on TVE. He has also received others, of the type “you have the face of a cocksucker.” And, of course, the star epithet for women activists, “feminazi”. But “saggy boobs” prevails because it originated in Forocoches, the website where hundreds of misogynistic and racist hoaxes and campaigns are orchestrated very effectively that later infest the networks.
When journalist María López Villodres published a seemingly uncontroversial article with tips for living a more eco-conscious life on With Fashion, I did not think that two years later I would still be a victim of digital harassment. In his case, the source focus was also very clear. A very popular anonymous Twitter account that continues to exist but is inactive spent a few years exposing journalists, almost always women, whom they called liberals. The method was well studied so as not to receive a block on the social network or be punishable. They did not tag the victim of harassment, but they looked for all the information about that person, including private photos on Instagram, Facebook and in their entire fingerprint, and posted them on the account with the intention of facilitating the work of the victims. trolls. In the case of Villodres, they put photos of him in airports and trips to show how environmentally friendly he would not be. They found information on the schools he had attended and published the price of tuition to brand it as “posh.” And, as happened to Pacheco, the insults did not take long to drift to the physical plane. Her story is similar to that of Itsué Nakaya Pérez, who identifies as a non-binary person and is studying for a PhD in Philosophy in New York. A tweet in which he criticized his university went viral and earned him a wave of insults, which quickly focused on the photo of his avatar. “You look like a dog” is the best thing they told him, in addition to other vexations related to his androgynous appearance.
In all these cases, the victims of harassment chose to leave the platform or make the universal gesture of self-defense on Twitter, putting on the padlock. That is, make your account private so that only your previous followers can see your tweets and comments. “As soon as I see that a tweet has more than 100 likes, I put the padlock on, ”explains Alba Correa, also a journalist. Although that does not at all end the effects of the insults – Pacheco says he felt in those days as if he had been “beaten” -, entering and leaving the private mode is a very common practice among women and people belonging to minorities who carry long enough on social media to have learned the lesson. According to Amnesty International’s report each year, 40% of women who use Twitter at least once a day claim to have experienced misogynistic insults. Another study, titled Troll Patrol, also carried out by Amnesty International and focused only on politicians and journalists, found that every 30 seconds one of them receives an attack of this type. Not surprisingly, many, like Ada Colau, have left the social network.
Putting on the lock has its costs. You don’t just go to Twitter to make friends and comment on the news, you also go to work, especially in professions that depend on public exposure. “At that time it was autonomous and the little use it made of the social network was professional,” explains López Villodres. “Now labor relations go through there, and that penalizes me. Nobody sees my comments, nobody can retweet me. I feel like they are punishing me ”. Two years after her harassment, she still has the lock because, she says, she prioritizes her mental health over any professional advantage taking it away from her might bring her. And what is more perverse is that their own stalkers interpret the lock as a victory. Just a month ago a comment appeared in the same article boasting that: “Look at her, she’s still locked.” In the community gamer, explains Thais Ruiz de Alda, from the Digital Fems platform, bullies go one step further and even manage to monetize their hatred. They often make videos on Twitch or YouTube celebrating their campaigns against female video game players who are attacked for being that, for being female gamers. Is content premium for them. From Digital Fems, a non-profit initiative that brings together different groups, they have centralized self-defense resources on a website in Spanish (autodefensa.online) and they work so that sexist violence online is counted as plain sexist violence. “One of our constant demands is that the Ministry of the Interior publish data that helps to understand the scope of this phenomenon,” claims Ruiz de Alda.
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Laura Tabarés, cultural manager of the Feminist Ontologies group, also makes this parallel between the physical and the digital. Cornering a woman in networks is similar to doing it in a portal. His group also gave workshops on feminist self-defense and has detected that “masculinist” collectives linked to the alternative right or anti-system are arriving in Spain that previously inhabited the so-called “deep internet” and are now migrating to the networks. “The padlock is like creating a safe space, like those that exist in the physical world. But it also implies a surrender, accepting a silencing, “admits Tabarés, who describes it as a” withdrawal strategy. Sometimes, he admits, there are those who need to rest and make themselves invisible so that others can take over.
On Twitter they are aware of this problem and, according to the same Amnesty International report, they are taking slow steps to solve it. “We know that some groups of people are abused online disproportionately ”, admits a spokesperson for the platform for Spain. They assure that they have made the option of reporting abuse, their own or someone else’s, more agile and that in the last two years they have invested in artificial intelligence that detects this type of behavior. In addition, since September something called “security mode” has been being tested in other countries, which automatically blocks users who insult a specific account for seven days and detects replications and repetitive and insulting mentions. For example: “Saggy tits”. Not surprisingly, one of the first groups with which the function is being tested is with female journalists.
Tabarés and other digital activists believe that these measures are fine, but they also miss a body outside the platforms that regulates the problem: “An ethical body outside the platforms is necessary so that their economic interests do not intervene.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.