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Twitter, Google, Facebook pledge to protect women from online abuse

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Tech firms like Twitter, Google, Facebook, and TikTok have committed to tackling online abuse and enhancing security for women on their respective platforms.

The pledge came after consultations with the World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF).

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“During our consultations on online gender-based violence and abuse, women expressed a need for greater control over who can comment or reply to their posts, as well as more choice over what they see online, when they see it and how they see it,” the WWWF said in a statement on Thursday.

“Women also repeatedly highlighted the need for improved reporting systems, so they can be better supported when they do receive violent or abusive content”.

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The tech companies took the pledge at the UN Generation Equality Forum in Paris on Thursday.

“With their resources and reach, these four companies have the power to curb this abuse and improve online experiences for hundreds of millions of women and girls,” said Azmina Dhrodia, Senior Policy Manager at Web Foundation.

“The commitments they’ve made today should be celebrated as a major win and act as a springboard for companies to tackle abuse against women as a top priority,” Dhrodia added.

The statistics are stark: 38 percent of women globally have directly experienced abuse online, rising to 45 percent for Gen Zs and Millennials. For women of color, Black women in particular, women from the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups, the abuse is often far worse.

According to the WWWF, the tech firms have pledged to “build better ways for women to curate their safety online” by offering more granular settings.

The settings are like who can see, share, comment or reply to their posts, using more simple and accessible language throughout the user experience, providing easy navigation and access to safety tools, and reducing the burden on women by proactively reducing the amount of abuse they see.

“Over the coming months, we’ll begin to develop and test a number of potential product changes to our platform that address these priorities and help make TikTok an ever safer place for women,” said Tara Wadhwa, director of policy for TikTok US.

Companies have committed to exploring and testing the prototypes and solutions, including features that let women better manage who can engage with their posts and more options to filter certain types of content, as well as strengthening reporting systems so users can track and manage reports of abuse.

“The companies will also ensure that solutions are addressed within a set and clear time frame and will regularly publish and share meaningful data and insights on their progress in implementing these commitments,” said the WWWF.

The Web Foundation said it will report annually on how tech companies have progressed in achieving these commitments.

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