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Amnesty study reveals women politicians faced most abuse on Twitter during 2019 general elections

The study is based on an analysis of 114,716 tweets mentioning 95 Indian women politicians

By Furquan Ameen in New Delhi
  • Published 23.01.20, 7:45 PM
  • Updated 23.01.20, 7:55 PM
  • 2 mins read
The report revealed that “The top 10 women politicians who received majority of mentions (74.1%) also received most of the problematic or abusive mentions (79.9%).” Artwork courtesy Amnesty International India

A study conducted by Amnesty International has revealed that women politicians faced a shocking scale of abuse during the Indian General Elections 2019.

The study, titled Troll Patrol India: Exposing Online Abuse Faced by Women Politicians in India, conducted in collaboration with the International Secretariat, reviewed a sizeable number of tweets sent to 95 women politicians during the election period. It was found that women politicians who were more active on Twitter were targeted by trolls more. The report reveals that “The top 10 women politicians who received majority of mentions (74.1%) also received most of the problematic or abusive mentions (79.9%).”

The report further details that “One in every seven tweets was either problematic or abusive. This means, on an average, each woman politician received 113 problematic or abusive tweets every day […] This amounts to over 10,000 problematic or abusive tweets every day for all the women.”

The study is based on an analysis of 114,716 tweets which mentioned 95 women politicians in India over a three-month period, from March to May 2019 – beginning with the start of election campaigns till the declaration of results.

It took over 1,900 digital volunteers across 82 countries – of which 1,095 were from India – to decode the tweets recorded on Amnesty’s microsite, Troll Patrol India.

The study also found that women who are from religious and ethnic minorities – transwomen, queer women, Muslim women, and Dalit women – were especially targeted. “Muslim women politicians received 94.1% more ethnic or religious slurs than women from other religions. Women politicians who are Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backwards Classes received 59% more caste-based abuse compared to women from General castes.”

One of the key findings of the study was that women politicians belonging to political “parties other than Bharatiya Janata Party” experienced more abuse on Twitter.

“Compared to the ruling party BJP, women politicians from other parties experienced 56.7% more problematic or abusive content than BJP, while INC (Congress) politicians received 45.3% more abusive or problematic content than BJP,” the report read.

In comparison with a similar study conducted by Amnesty in 2018, the report concluded that women politicians in India face substantially higher online abuse than their UK or USA counterparts.

Incidentally, journalist Swati Chaturvedi’s 2016 book I am a Troll, published by Juggernaut Books, deals extensively with the troll phenomenon in India, especially women. Chaturvedi herself was subjected to systematic abuse and slander, beginning with an anonymous and now infamous Twitter handle @lutyensinsider. The user in question launched a vicious six-month ling campaign alleging Chaturvedi was sexually involved with a politician. She then faced large spread abuse stemming from this slander campaign.

In response to the study, Twitter India told Amnesty that, “It has made strides in creating a healthier service and continues to further invest in proactive technology to positively and directly impact people’s experience on the service.”

We have sought a response separately from Twitter India on the report, and will update this story if and when we receive correspondence.