Saving Representative Democracy from Online Trolls
Over the past year, social-media companies have de-emphasized content moderation and rolled back policies that previously kept harassment in check. Given that female politicians receive a disproportionate amount of online abuse, this backsliding poses a grave threat to representative democracy in 2024.
OXFORD – More than 70 national elections are scheduled for 2024, including in eight of the ten most populous countries. But one group is likely to be significantly underrepresented: women. A major reason is the disproportionate amount of abuse female politicians and candidates receive online, including threats of rape and violence, and the rise of artificial intelligence, which can be used to create sexually explicit deepfakes, is only compounding the problem.
And yet, over the past year, platforms such as Meta, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube have de-emphasized content moderation and rolled back policies that previously kept hate, harassment, and lies in check. According to a new report, this has fueled a “toxic online environment that is vulnerable to exploitation from anti-democracy forces, white supremacists, and other bad actors.”
Online attacks against women in politics are already on the rise. Four out of five female parliamentarians have been subjected to psychological violence such as bullying, intimidation, verbal abuse, or harassment, while more than 40% have been threatened with assault, sexual violence, or death.