Scotland’s female leaders tell Twitter: Clamp down on online abuse of women

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EDINBURGH (Reuters) – Scotland’s three most powerful female politicians have called on Twitter to do more to stop online abuse and harassment of women.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said on Wednesday they supported Amnesty International research which found that many women self-censor on Twitter because of fear of being targeted.

Sturgeon said she was worried about the impact on young women who might be attracted to leadership roles.

“What makes me angry when I read that kind of abuse directed at me is that I worry that it is putting the next generation of women off politics,” she said.

Davidson, who is gay, said she received homophobic abuse on Twitter and Dugdale said she had received three death threats in six years.

“There was one particular instance a few years ago now where somebody on Twitter suggested I should be bayoneted. That was the occasion that I went to the police,” Dugdale said.

Working with Amnesty, Scottish leaders hope to leverage a wider global movement for women to speak out about abuse of power and sexism. Amnesty aims to get Twitter to bolster its response to harassment and intimacy violations using the hashtag #ToxicTwitter.

Amnesty said that despite policies that aim to stamp out abuse, Twitter appears to be inadequately enforcing these policies when women report violence and abuse.

Twitter said in a statement it was looking forward to “constructive engagement” with Amnesty to find lasting solutions to ensure women’s safety online.

“A number of the proposals represent work already completed or under way at Twitter. Abuse and hateful conduct directed at women are prohibited on our platform,” added Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s Trust and Safety Lead.

Earlier this month, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, who is a Muslim, posted a YouTube video in which read out racist tweets that had been sent to him, and asked tech companies to try to work harder to respond to such behavior.

Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; editing by Stephen Addison

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