Emma Watson, Julia Gillard And Ashley Judd Speak Out Against Online Harassment

By Andrew Rossow
on 17 July 2021

Actress Emma Watson, Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel, Julia Gillard, the former prime minister of Australia, tennis champion Billie King and Naomi Judd are among more than 200 prominent women who have spoken out against online harassment against women.

Calling for big tech like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and Google to “prioritize the safety of women” on their platforms, they wrote published an open letter calling for an end of targeted harassment online, which unfortunately has put not just women, but children and those struggling with mental health challenges at risk for fatal harm.

Julia Gillard
Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia

The open letter, which was published by the World Wide Web Foundation, said: “The internet is the town square of the 21st century. It is where debate takes place, communities are built, products are sold and reputations are made. But the scale of online abuse means that, for too many women, these digital town squares are unsafe. This is a threat to progress on gender equality.”

“There’s always been an undercurrent of racism and misogyny,” Diane Abbott, one of the letter’s signatories said. Abbott became the first Black woman elected to British Parliament in 1987, confessing in an interview with The New York Times that she, too, had faced unrelenting online harassment.  “But social media has made everything so much worse. Every day you click on Twitter or Facebook, you have to steel yourself to see racist abuse — that’s a horrible feeling.”

In response to this open letter, the four tech companies pledged their support to improve the safety of their online platforms, showing the willingness of big tech to help strengthen its resources and tools designed to address platform abuse.

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