Women in politics often receive targeted abuse on social media, particularly on Twitter, which has emerged as a hub for political discourse. Such abusive language embodies expressions of violence and misogyny that have been historically used to silence both women and other marginalized groups. For many, the continued existence of threatening speech has a direct effect on decisions to pursue a career in public office and/or on being vocal on social justice issues. It is not an overstatement to say then that addressing the problem of online violent threats plays a central role in the health of the democratic process.
The goals of this project, broadly stated, are 1) to understand the form and structure of violent threats on Twitter by creating a digital archive of such threats that accounts for the contextual information around them and 2) to find models of effective digital strategies to address these threats. The first helps better understand recurring patterns in the content and form of violent tweets, informing the computational means for their automatic removal. The second can potentially shift the burden of documentation and reporting from those who have been threatened to third parties and tools that can help combat such online abuse. While the focus of this investigation is on threats of violence made towards women of color in politics on Twitter, the outcomes of this research inform the analyses and interventions into social media threats targeted towards other marginalized voices such as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
This project draws on a mixed-methods approach in this project that includes network and text analysis alongside design and experimental methods such as the development and prototyping of Twitter bots. It is part of a broader research interest on participatory media and democratic participation.
Related publications and presentations:
- “We found no violation!”: Twitter’s Violent Threats Policy and Toxicity in Online Discourse. Pooja Casula, Aditya Anupam, Nassim Parvin | in the International Conference on Communities & Technologies, Wicked Problems in the Age of Tech 2021.