An open letter signed by more than 200 high-profile women called on social media platforms Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter to take action when it comes to bullying and abuse.
These high-profile people included actress and activist Ashley Judd, former tennis star Billie Jean King, and British actress Emma Watson.
Addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, the letter begins, “We write to you to ask that you urgently prioritize the safety of women on your platforms.”
Speaking of the Generation Equality Forum in Paris, during which “world leaders come together to agree on a plan to advance women’s rights,” the letter described the event as a “historic opportunity” for the “CEOs of some of the world’s most powerful tech platforms, to tackle one of the biggest barriers to gender equality: the pandemic of online abuse against women and girls.”
“The commitments you make today should be seen as a promise to women and girls around the world that you will decisively deal with the abuse that they are subject to on your platforms,” the letter continued.
According to the authors, “38% of women globally have directly experienced online abuse,” with this figure rising to “45% for Gen Zs and Millennials,” while the “abuse is often far worse” for “women of color, for black women in particular, for women from the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups.”
“The internet is the town square of the 21st century. It is where debate takes place, communities are built, products are sold and reputations are made. But the scale of online abuse means that, for too many women, these digital town squares are unsafe. This is a threat to progress on gender equality,” the letter continued. “A huge volume of this abuse takes place on social media platforms — and its reach is global. Your decisions shape the way billions of people experience life online. With your incredible financial resources and engineering might, you have the unique capability and responsibility to ensure your platforms prevent, rather than fuel, this abuse.”
The authors did admit that “no quick-fix will cure the problem,” instead arguing that “there are many avenues to make significant progress.” They stated that it is “vital to put into action two priorities women have said are critical for their safety — more control of their experiences on your platforms, and better reporting systems:
- Give people greater control to manage their safety. Rather than a one-size-fits-all experience, women should have more control over who can interact with them on tech platforms, as well as more choice over what, when and how they see content online. These tools should be easy to find and simple to use.
- Improve your systems for reporting abuse. Current tools need to be improved so women can easily report abuse and track the progress of these reports. For example, dashboards that show users the status of all their reports in one place, features to guide them through the reporting process, and tools that offer women access to additional support when it’s needed, could make a huge difference.
“Commitments you make today to address these two areas are a positive and necessary step. How you take these forward also matters. As you work towards these goals, we’ll be watching: we will recognize when you make progress and hold you to account when you don’t,” the letter concluded, adding that Big Tech’s progress “against these commitments will be tracked annually.”
“Imagine what you can achieve if you follow through on commitments to build safer platforms: an online world where a journalist can engage with feedback on her reporting, not assassinations of her character. Where a politician may read complaints about her policies, but not threats of rape and murder. Where a young woman can share what she wants to on her terms, knowing there are systems to keep her safe and hold harassers accountable,” the letter noted. “If you build this better internet for women, you will build a better internet for everyone. You have the way. Now show the world that you also have the will.”