In the unregulated world of Web 2.0, internet trolls are often free to say whatever they like, to whoever they like, unsupervised. While being targeted by internet trolls is not a gender-specific experience, the subject of the trolling often is. Women on the internet, especially in public roles such as journalism, blogging, or feminist activism, often face abuse that is gender specific and graphically explicit. Threats of murder and rape and degrading comments about appearance are not uncommon or infrequent. These are things women face on the internet everyday, in societies that are supposedly past the age of misogyny.
According to Pew’s 2005 report, women and men have been logging on in equal numbers since 2000. Yet, unsurprisingly, internet trolls are still disproportionately targeting women – from 2000 to 2012, females made up 72.5 percent of complaints to the volunteer organisation Working to Halt Online Abuse.
Due to the extent of internet trolling, gender based harassment is not taken seriously. Women being harassed are expected to either be flattered by the attention, or get over it. However, while some of the threats and comments may not be serious, the consequences of them are. The Pew Report found that from 2000 to 2005, the percentage of Internet users who participate in online chats and discussion groups dropped from 28 percent to 17 percent, entirely because of women’s fall off in participation.
I would also like to point out something very important. Women on the internet, especially video bloggers, may not face threatening internet troll behaviour, but inappropriate behaviours nonetheless.
Women are still made to feel uncomfortable and even disgusted in a space that is supposed to give them creative freedom – expressing themselves becomes an alley for males to verbally sexually harass them, under the impression they are being validating and empowering.
Misogyny is not dead. Through Web 2.0, it has been given new ways to flourish while going largely unnoticed and unpunished. Women and men using the internet face very different realities – and as a female on the internet myself, I cannot disagree with this. It is disheartening, and it can be seriously scary.