Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter make unprecedented commitments to tackle the abuse of women on their platforms

1st July 2021 | Update

Facebook, Google, TikTok and Twitter — four of the world’s largest tech companies — today announce a bold package of commitments to tackle online abuse and improve women’s safety on their platforms at the UN Generation Equality Forum in Paris.

During our consultations on online gender-based violence and abuse, women expressed a need for greater control over who can comment or reply to their posts, as well as more choice over what they see online, when they see it and how they see it. Women also repeatedly highlighted the need for improved reporting systems, so they can be better supported when they do receive violent or abusive content.

Companies have committed to:

Build better ways for women to curate their safety online by:

  • Offering more granular settings (e.g. who can see, share, comment or reply to posts)
  • Using more simple and accessible language throughout the user experience
  • Providing easy navigation and access to safety tools
  • Reducing the burden on women by proactively reducing the amount of abuse they see

Implement improvements to reporting systems by:

  • Offering users the ability to track and manage their reports
  • Enabling greater capacity to address context and/or language
  • Providing more policy and product guidance when reporting abuse
  • Establish additional ways for women to access help and support during the reporting process

Companies have committed to exploring and testing the prototypes and solutions developed during the workshops. This includes features that let women better manage who can engage with their posts and more options to filter certain types of content, as well as strengthening reporting systems so users can track and manage reports of abuse. The companies will also ensure that solutions are addressed within a set and clear time frame and will regularly publish and share meaningful data and insights on their progress in implementing these commitments. The Web Foundation will report annually on how tech companies have progressed in achieving these commitments.

If companies can design solutions for the most marginalised women on their platforms, they will create a safer online experience for everyone.

The commitments were developed during our policy design workshops that brought together 120 experts from tech companies, civil society, academia and governments from over 35 countries to co-create product solutions addressing specific problems, based on personas of five highly visible women with intersecting identities. The inaugural project in our Tech Policy Design Lab, the process is a new approach to how tech companies respond to major challenges, engaging with an open, collaborative process where the experiences of those most impacted are at the centre of designing solutions.

“For too long, women have been routinely harassed, attacked and subsequently silenced in online spaces. This is a huge threat to progress on gender equality,” Web Foundation Senior Policy Manager Azmina Dhrodia said. “With their resources and reach, these four companies have the power to curb this abuse and improve online experiences for hundreds of millions of women and girls. Now, they’ve had the chance to work with leading experts from different sectors to co-create solutions that can lead to real change. The commitments they’ve made today should be celebrated as a major win and act as a springboard for companies to tackle abuse against women as a top priority.”

Today’s announcement represents a critical step forward in tackling widespread online abuse that affects millions of women around the world and poses a growing threat to progress on gender equality. The statistics are stark: 38% of women globally have directly experienced abuse online, rising to 45% for Gen Zs and Millennials. For women of colour, for Black women in particular, for women from the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalised groups — the abuse is often far worse.

Scheaffer Okore, Director of Policy and Advocacy for Women Political Leaders, noted how being in the public eye contributed to the abuse: “In my role in politics, I have been abused and threatened more times than I can count. As a woman, being visible in politics, advocacy, or any other area is itself a trigger for abuse.”

The consequences of this abuse can be devastating, causing mental and physical harm, silencing women’s voices, and delivering an economic blow to those who rely on tech platforms for their livelihoods.

Journalist Arzu Geybulla discussed the impact of abuse on her role as a reporter: “My reputation as a credible journalist was being put on the line – the harassers were questioning and discrediting my reporting by spreading false information.”

These commitments are a significant win and can lead to real change. Together, we can build digital spaces that are safer for women and girls — and therefore everyone.

To learn more about how these commitments were developed, our innovative policy design workshop approach, and our recommendations and design suggestions, visit our project microsite.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the consultations and workshops, and a special thanks to Feminist Internet and Craig Walker, our design firms who helped lead this work.

Read statements from Twitter and TikTok on the commitments.

This work is part of the Contract for the Web — the roadmap of action to create an online world that is safe, empowering and for everyone. Find out more and endorse the Contract at contractfortheweb.org.


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