Who ya gonna call? Trollbusters!
Sarah Campion, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities - © nuj
10 March 2017
An NUJ motion calling for measures to combat misogynistic abuse on social media was passed unanimously at the TUC's Women's conference.
Cath Saunt, NUJ delegate, told conference:
"Girls and women everywhere are being bullied online, some driven to self-harm and even suicide. And women journalists and bloggers, generally strong women’s voices online, are especially prone to the vilest of words and images. One survey in 2014 showed female journalists received three times as much abuse via Twitter as their male counterparts. Yet many of us feel we have no alternative but to use Twitter and other social media platforms as part of our work."
Delegates were told that a study by the think tank Demos of Twitter discovered that in a three-week period 6,500 unique users were targets by misogynistic tweets, using terms such as slut and whore.
Recently MP Diane Abbot spoke out about the level of sexist and racist abuse she experienced daily, including death threats. Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned for Jane Austen to appear on UK banknotes, found herself the centre of a vicious Twitter storm. She said the threats to rape, torture and kill her focused on her mouth and on her throat. They were designed, she said, to shut her up. This had made her even more determine to campaign for women's voices to be heard.
Women journalists in particular find they are targets of vile tweets. The abuse is often sexual with rape threats as common as insults about a woman’s appearance. A survey by NUJ Scotland showed cyberbullying affected the way 50 per cent of respondents worked.
Journalists who write about traditionally male topics, such as sport, technology, or gaming, are often singled out. Emma Barnett, who had previously written about technology, told the Huffington Post: “I’d get responses like, How the f**k do you understand this? You don’t know what you’re f**king talking about, get back in the kitchen."
Kathy Sierra was a successful technology writer before she was targeted by the trolls and had her personal details including her home address published on the internet. She went into hiding and was offline for six years. TV presenter Sue Perkins was offline for four months when she was mobbed by Twitter users, all because it was suggested she might replace Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear.
Cath asked: "So what can we do about it? You could call Trollbusters! Yes, there is now an app, developed in the States that counters hate with love by sending positive messages to the point of attack."
The motion called on the TUC to carry out its own survey of online abuse; to work with employers, the police and social media platforms to report abuse; and to press for parliamentary ratification of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
The NUJ also seconded a motion by Bectu on unconscious bias, which called on the women’s committee of the TUC to promote discussion for unions around unconscious bias within all union structures and to run training programmes to raise awareness of the severe impact of unconscious bias on working women’s lives.
Sarah Champion, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, having hotfooted to the conference from hearing the Chancellor's spring budget, told delegates that successive budgets and autumn statements since 2010 have consistently hit women the hardest, with research showing that 86 per cent off net gains to the Treasury, through tax and benefit measures, had come from women. She said:
"Globally, one of Trump’s very first acts as President, in a room full of men, was to curtail women’s reproductive rights while at the same time, Vladimir Putin has de-criminalised domestic violence.
"In the past week, we have seen that there are now nearly one million people on zero hour contracts – the highest ever on record. Despite government rhetoric to the contrary, we cannot fool ourselves into thinking that women who are self-employed, or those on zero hour contracts, are having their rights at work properly protected."
The answer, she said, was at this conference:
"Women in the trade union movement are one of the best places to look for inspiration, motivation and a demonstration of how we can, both individually and collectively, drive change in our workplaces and communities. Forget the old idea of blokes and beer – the trade union movement in 2017 is where women are innovating, leading and achieving real change. The average union member today is a woman in her 40s."
Other motions discussed at conference included the effect of Brexit on women's jobs and employment rights including equal pay, cuts to social security; pregnancy and maternity discrimination; women's pensions, sexual harassment in the workplace and inspiring young women "to rasie their aspirations and broaden their horizons".
The motions in full:
Cyber abuse - its toll on women journalists
The extent of misogynistic abuse in the UK on social media has been exposed by the think tank, Demos. It monitored Twitter for the use of the words ‘slut’ and ‘whore’ over three weeks and found that a shocking 6,500 unique users were targeted by 10,000 misogynistic tweets.
An NUJ survey in Scotland showed cyberbullying affected the way 50 percent of respondents worked.
This conference condemns the rise in online abuse, in particular of women journalists, which can lead to self- censorship.
Conference welcomes the new CPS guidance on reporting and preventing social media abuse, the Reclaim the Internet campaign and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom’s confidential reporting point for female journalists. In addition the Council of Europe's landmark convention opens the path for creating a legal framework at pan-European level to protect women against all forms of violence.
Conference calls on the TUC to:
i) carry out its own survey of online abuse and the impact on performance at work
ii) work with employers, the police and social media platforms to encourage victims to report abuse
iii) press for parliamentary ratification of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul convention
We all have biases, whether we like it or not, of which we are not in conscious control, especially around gender or race - this is called unconscious bias. These biases can severely impact on a woman’s ability to get on in her career due to an unconscious bias in recruitment and selection processes. It is well documented that women often face bias and discrimination when seeking promotion in their working lives, but it is less well documented that it is, in fact, unconscious bias that is dangerous and destructive for many women at work. Within our BECTU Sector women’s committee we have recognised the need to acknowledge that unconscious bias exists and to take steps to highlight and promote mechanisms to combat this bias in the workplace. We are in the process of developing a training course to raise awareness for members in BECTU Sector. We want to call on the women’s committee of the TUC to promote discussion for unions around unconscious bias within all union structures and to run training programmes to raise awareness of the severe impact of unconscious bias on working women’s lives.