Most online hate targets women, says EU report

(Reuters) – Women are the main targets of online hate, including abusive language, harassment and incitement to sexual violence, a European Union report said on Wednesday.

This should encourage the EU and social media platforms to pay close attention to protected characteristics such as gender and ethnicity when moderating content, the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) said in its report.

The study was conducted on YouTube, Telegram, Reddit and X – formerly known as Twitter – in four EU countries between January and June 2022. It showed women were the main targets across all platforms and countries involved. Other affected groups included people of African descent, Roma and Jews.

The number of hateful posts targeting women was almost three times that of those targeting people of African descent across Bulgaria, Germany, Italy and Sweden, the four countries covered by the report, the EU agency said.

“The sheer volume of hate we identified on social media clearly shows that the EU, its Member States, and online platforms can step up their efforts to create a safer online space for all,” FRA director Michael O’Flaherty said in a statement.

Under the EU’s Digital Services Act, which came into force last year, very large tech platforms and search engines must do more to tackle harmful and illegal content or risk fines.

The European Commission in October opened formal investigations into efforts by Facebook parent Meta, TikTok and X to remove harmful content from their platforms.

Tech giants have been facing mounting scrutiny recently, with a surge in harmful content and disinformation following the Israel-Hamas war.

The FRA said it had been unable to access data from Facebook and Instagram for the study.

(Reporting by Diana Mandiá in Gdansk; editing by Milla Nissi and Angus MacSwan)