Abusive language hurled on Twitter without a second thought is an unfortunate reality of living in a social media world. And it's all too easy to assume language that cuts down women, like slinging "slut" and "whore" with abandon, comes from men.
But it seems women are doing their best to add to a culture of misogyny.
In research over a three-week period from the end of April 2016, research think-tank Demos used an algorithm to look at 1.46 million posts on Twitter that used either "slut" or "whore."
Taking out the ones used in pornographic content, 650,000 tweets sent by 450,000 people were broken down into categories:
Aggressive Tweets: 33 percent
Self-Reference: 9 percent
Others: 58 percent (e.g.: people using the words to discuss how to counter behavior like slut-shaming, etc).
Alex Krasodomski-Jones from Demos said the algorithm used to identify the gender of those sending abusive tweets using the aggressive words was 85% accurate on a three-way split: men, women or an organization.
“Looking at this data set of thousands of pieces of misogynistic abuse, and looking at the people the perpetrators of this abuse were following, gave us a good indication of who they were,” he said. “The algorithm suggested 50% were women, and a cursory look at who they were following — Beyoncé, One Direction and Justin Bieber — indicated they were ordinary women and girls, not a cabal of angry white men following right-wing activists.
“There are two issues here. There is the cabal of angry white men who might follow right-wing groups who are carrying out this kind of misogynistic abuse and there is a cultural and societal issue of women and girls using this language. This study was extremely limited in its scope and we would like to do more research,” he added.
The research was carried out for the launch of the Reclaim the Internet campaign led by the U.K. Labor MPs Yvette Cooper, Maria Miller, Stella Creasy, Jess Philips and former Liberal Democrat Minister Jo Swinson.
The campaign has opened an online forum to discuss ways to make the internet less aggressive, sexist, racist and homophobic.
"The truth is nobody knows what the best answers are. There is more when there is criminal abuse, for example rape threats, that the police should be doing but what is the responsibility of everyone else? What more should social media platforms be doing?" said Cooper.
She said that the campaign was an opportunity for the public to "put forward their proposals and demands for the changes we want to see."