New Paper Alert: ‘Mapping Out Violence Against Women of Influence on Twitter Using the Cyber–Lifestyle Routine Activity Theory’ #VAW

78 % of hostile posts with explicit forms of harassment against women were still available on Twitter one year after the initial data collection, according to new @SMLabTO study.

In a new paper entitled “Mapping out Violence Against Women of Influence on Twitter Using the Cyber–Lifestyle Routine Activity Theory“, published in the Journal American Behavioral Scientist, researchers from the Ryerson University Social Media Lab, Priya Kumar, Anatoliy Gruzd and Philip Mai examined how women confront online #VAW in a multilingual Indian context.

As the authors noted, “while there is a growing concern over the social, political, economic, and health-related consequences of online violence against women (VAW), current preventative frameworks and reporting tools offer limited defensive strategies of protective guardianship and long-term solutions to this ever-growing problem.”

This problem is compounded by the fact that, to date, much of the research on online violence against women has omitted women’s online experiences from the Global South. This new study aims to remedy that deficiency and contributes empirical data and perspectives from outside of the typical Western anglophone context (North American and Europe).

Core to this new study, is a reexamination and application of the Routine Activity Theory to study online harassment and violence against women on Twitter. Using both quantitative and qualitative content analysis techniques, the team examined a large sample of ~1M tweets directed at women of influence on Twitter in India and identified three broad types of online violence directed at women of influence: 1) dismissive insults, 2) ethnoreligious slurs, and 3) gendered sexual harassment. As part of the study, the team also developed a new taxonomy for classification of individually motivated offenders: “news junkies”, “Bollywood fanatics”, and “lone-wolves”.

Finally, the study showed that 78 % of hostile posts against women were still available on Twitter one year after the initial data collection and that only about 22% of hostile posts with explicit forms of harassment have been deleted either by the posters or by the platform. This finding brings into question the relative effectiveness of Twitter’s form of ‘protective guardianship’ against online violence against women.

You can access a free copy of the full manuscript here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0002764221989777 [Open Access]


Acknowledgement: Big thanks to the special issue editors @HazelKwonASU @WeiaiWayne @barrywellman as well as members of @SMLabTO for providing feedback throughout the project and especially to @jacobsonjenna, Michael Pacheco, @Dustirain, Nikolai Krause, @lilachdh, & Nadia Conroy