Can social media fight online abuse?

SOUTHAMPTON residents give their views on tackling cyberbullying.

Online abuse photo

Online Abuse is rapidly becoming an increasing problem in the United Kingdom.

With the ongoing development of social media, it has become easier for web users, which have been labelled trolls, to stalk and insult other people online.

A recent study by Maeve Duggan, of the Pew Research Center, has shown that 73% of adult internet users have witnessed others being harassed online in some way, while 40% have personally experienced it.

The study also showed that men are slightly more likely to suffer verbal harassment online than women, but women are more likely to be affected by it and threats toward women are more likely to be sexual or gender-based.

Elzabi Rimington, a Web Science researcher at the University of Southampton stated: “Sexist harassment of women takes on a normality and same-ness in online spaces. There are lots of factors in deconstructing it as a problem, from ‘trolling’ as an internet phenomenon to free speech as a ‘right’.”

She also mentioned the #GamerGate phenomenon, a movement that challenged the stereotype of many online gamers being sexist. Ironically, the online movement soon resulted in a group of male gamers making derogatory comments towards women who questioned their representation in video game media.

The non-sexist gamers of the world soon spoke up, setting up the #GamersAgainstGamergate to rival it, as these users felt they were getting unfairly stereotyped. One man tweeted that he was afraid to discuss gaming with new people because of Gamer Gate and called for it to stop.

This type of retaliation is fast becoming a common way to draw attention to cyber abuse.

One woman has used a similar method against the abuse she suffered.

Mia Matsumiya received online abuse for over ten years. She was bombarded with rude comments from strangers. Some comments included, “Baby you are heart throbbing fine. Your short thing body really turns me on. Want to be my queen?” and “You look pretty thin so that’s how I like them”, along with many other more demeaning posts.

She has now posted 157 of these comments onto Instagram, to show people how she suffered and to help raise awareness of abuse online.

Southampton residents gave us their thoughts on using social media to fight back against this form of abuse.

Claire, 20, said: “Using social media to fight back might work as the abuser can see it but they could still hide behind their screens.”

Jake, 23, said: “Some of those people [posting things online] think that no one’s going to know it’s them and that’s the only reason they do it, so if you can use it to expose them then hopefully it would stop.”

Greg, 15, said: “Using social media could create a community of people against online abuse. It could work”

Louise, 19, said: “I think it should all be left off social media, as others will get involved which will make things ten times worse. It usually [leads] people making up rubbish and[encourages] insults about that one person. If you have a problem with someone, then you should speak to them about it privately”

Tom, 20, said: “I think that it is a great way of raising awareness of the fact that the internet is filled with abusive trolls, and putting a spotlight on that abuse can bring a lot of support for the victims of it. However, there is so much anonymity on the internet that people can say so many cruel and hurtful things on an online profile, without fear of it being linked back to them.”