Women on reality TV shows get more abuse online than men, study shows

Report says social media companies must do more to stop the rise of online abuse

Elizabeth Aubrey
Monday 18 October 2021 19:46
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A new study has revealed that female contestants on reality television shows are far more likely to be targeted with abuse online than men.

The researchers analysed more than 90,000 posts and comments across several social media platforms and discovered that 26 per cent of tweets mentioning a female contestant from Love Island were abusive compared to 14 per cent of those naming a male counterpart. A number of other shows were also investigated for the study.

The report was produced by the Demos think-tank for a BBCPanorama special on online abuse.

It stated: “It has become an unfortunate pattern that with the advent of a new reality show season, that inevitably follows an onslaught of harassment and abuse levelled against those on the show, from contestants to presenters to bystanders.

“This is not just online discussions getting heated: this abuse has escalated to participants in these shows, disproportionately women, especially women of colour.”

The report found that women of colour are more likely to receive extreme and violent threats online. It also found that gendered tropes could be found throughout the social media posts – like characterising women as mentally unstable, emotionally volatile, annoying or attention seeking.

Women were more likely to be “the subject of extreme misogynistic sexualisation and objectification” than men, the report added.

The report said that women are quitting social media due to safety concerns and advises social media companies to do more to protect women online.

One of the reports authors, Ellen Judson, said: “Platforms are not neutral carriers of content. Rather than focusing narrowly on systems to remove or report abuse – often after the harm has already been done – the online safety bill should be holding platforms accountable for how their design and the wider systems they use affect the risks and prevalence of abusive behaviour on their services.”

Online Abuse: Why Do You Hate Me? airs tonight (18 October) on BBC1 in the UK.

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