Expel Paul Gosar From Congress

(The Nation)

Activist groups are demanding accountability, especially after the attack on Ocasio-Cortez. “In any other workplace, a person would be fired immediately for sharing content threatening violence and murdering a coworker. There should be no difference in Congress,” said Bridget Todd, the communications director for the gender justice group UltraViolet. “Representative Gosar’s tweets depicting the murder of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and violence against President Biden are horrific.”

The organization called for “removal proceedings against Gosar from Congress without delay.”


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Advocates worry online misogyny will keep women out of office

(The Hill)

Advocates are worried that rising online misogyny will leave more women unwilling to run for office, a concern highlighted by a video posted by Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) showing him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). 

Although Gosar’s video, which used an edited clip from the anime show “Attack on Titan,” targeted a member of Congress, critics warn the amplification of such content via mainstream social media can dissuade women from participating in politics at all levels.

“There’s a silencing impact,” said Bridget Todd, director of communications at the feminist group UltraViolet. “I think it really does trickle down where everybody — whether you’re a public figure or just someone who’s interested in getting involved in your kids school board in your town — I think that everybody can see the way that these platforms have tolerated this abuse, how they’re treating it like it’s not a big deal.”

“And why would anybody want to speak up and be a full participant in their democracy when that’s the case?” Todd added.  

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Instagram gets an F, TikTok a D+ on sexism report card


Feminist advocacy group UltraViolet has released a report card ranking some of the biggest social media platforms on how they handle misinformation, hate speech, harassment, and misogyny. Nobody did well.

Compiled in partnership with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, the report evaluates Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube’s policies against UltraViolet’s 11 Policy Recommendations. It then averages each platform’s scores and assigns a letter grade according to Harvard University Graduate School of Education’s grading rubric.

“Social media has become an almost ubiquitous part of modern life,” said UltraViolet communications director Bridget Todd in a press release on Wednesday. “Despite the advantages of keeping in touch on social media platforms [sic], we can’t allow the companies behind them to peddle lies and conspiracy theories, or tacitly condone racist, misogynistic, homophobic and transphobic attacks.”

In addition to the report card, UltraViolet also published an open letter to the CEOs of all the platforms it evaluated, demanding the companies immediately adopt and enforce the advocacy group’s policies to better protect marginalised groups. UltraViolet’s open letter was also signed by 75 other international organisations, including Color Of Change, GLAAD, and Public Citizen.

“Black, Indigenous, and women of color and LGBTQ people are being harmed on the internet by an onslaught of racist and misogynist attacks,” the letter says. “The actions of your companies — Alphabet, Facebook, Twitter, ByteDance, TikTok, and Reddit — have demonstrated that you care more about your profit margins than keeping people safe.”


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These Corporations Funded The Co-Sponsors Of Ohio’s Proposed Abortion Ban

(Huff Post)

A new report from UltraViolet, a national gender-justice organization, identified 38 companies that gave more than $132,000 last year to Ohio lawmakers who are backing the anti-abortion bill introduced last week. That list includes health care companies such as Pfizer, Anthem, Molina Healthcare and Merck. Other donors include telecommunications company Charter Communications, Dominion Energy and General Motors. UltraViolet sourced much of its report through OpenSecrets, a nonprofit that tracks political spending.

“Where you decide to spend your political dollar ― in this case literal dollars ― is a huge barometer of your values and who or what you’re willing to sacrifice,” said Sonja Spoo, director of reproductive rights campaigns at UltraViolet. “Corporations are directly funding the erosion of our rights with their political dollars.”

Ohio’s H.B. 480 is nearly identical to the extreme anti-abortion law that went into effect in Texas in September. The Texas law bans abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy and deputizes private citizens to enforce it by offering a $10,000 bounty to anyone who successfully sues someone “aiding or abetting” a person seeking an abortion. But Ohio’s bill goes even further, prohibiting abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

Spoo said UltraViolet will continue to hold big corporations’ feet to the fire to ensure that consumers know where their money is going.

“We’re going to continue to put pressure, especially on AT&T, but also on other companies who think they can get away with saying they support equality in their PR statements and then turn around and open their purse, so to speak, to fund candidates who are directly working to explicitly roll back equality.”

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The Memo: Experts warn of new violence amid Gosar storm

(The Hill)

Experts are warning of more political violence amid a furor over Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-Ariz.) animated video that featured him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and attacking President Biden with two swords.

“We are talking about this one video but we are really talking about a bigger picture,” Bridget Todd, the communications director for gender justice organization UltraViolet, told this column, referring to the Gosar tweet. “They are counting on this idea of ‘Oh, it was a joke, it’s just Twitter.’ But we have to do something to make sure this kind of behavior is not normalized.”

Todd added that the video was “emblematic of a deeper culture toxicity, and we need to call it out for what it is.”

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Reddit got the best grade on a ‘misogyny report card’ for social media. It was a C.

(Washington Post )

None of the major social media companies are excelling at preventing harassment and abuse against women on their sites, but some like Reddit and Twitter are faring better than others, according to a new report by an advocacy group shared exclusively with The Technology 202.

Developed by feminist group Ultraviolet, in collaboration with researchers at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue think tank, the “misogyny report card” gave platforms including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok subpar-to-failing grades for not taking greater steps to shore up their policies against harmful treatment of women. That’s especially the case for women of color, Ultraviolet wrote, who “face an onslaught of both racist and misogynist attacks, including vicious gendered disinformation campaigns.”

“Across the board, social media platforms fail the test when it comes to creating an internet experience that is safe and inclusive for Black women, women of color, and LGBTQ people,” Ultraviolent wrote in its findings, released Wednesday, which dozens of advocacy groups are rallying around to call for policy changes.

The report card, which assigned sites letter grades from A to F based on how thoroughly they have implemented recommendations that groups say are needed to curb gendered abuse, gave top overall marks to Reddit with a C and Twitter with a C-.

The group credited Reddit and Twitter with having “fairly robust” policies against hate speech, but say the platforms should expand their policies against gender-related forms of disinformation, including about “abortion, pregnancy, eating disorders, and extreme dieting.” They also praised Reddit for partnering with a mental health text line that helps victims of harassment or abuse.

“Reddit, the platform once known as a haven for white supremacy and misogyny, has set itself apart as an industry leader in the last two years by making robust changes to its hate speech policies, as well as to moderation and enforcement,” they wrote.

Facebook and Instagram drew the lowest marks, with a D- and an F, while TikTok and Google-owned YouTube fell in between, earning a D+ and a D, respectively.

The group called Facebook’s enforcement of its policies against harassment and disinformation “slow” and said the company “fails victims of harassment by putting the burden on them to report each individual post and user.” And they argued that Instagram needs to do more to differentiate its policies from Facebook to address problems that are more pronounced on video- and image-based platforms, such as body image issues.

Feminist advocates said the incident served as a reminder of how social networks are failing women, including high-profile users like Ocasio-Cortez.

“While it’s no secret that social media platforms can be toxic places for women of color, Gosar’s perpetuation [of] violence against Rep. Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter is completely unacceptable,” Bridget Todd, communications director at UltraViolet, said in a statement Tuesday.

UltraViolet and 74 other advocacy groups and nonprofits including Color of Change, MoveOn and Media Matters called on all six social media networks in a letter to adopt new policies to mitigate risks to women on their sites.

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‘It spreads like a disease’: how pro-eating-disorder videos reach teens on TikTok

(The Guardian)

Instagram has attracted a firestorm after whistleblower Frances Haugen revealed internal research showing the platform downplayed proof of its toxic effects – including the rise of eating disorders – on children.

But such issues are not limited to the Facebook-owned social media company. The Guardian has found a variety of harmful pro-anorexia hashtags remain searchable on the popular video-sharing app TikTok, where corresponding videos have billions of views combined.

‘More dangerous than Instagram’

Todd said that TikTok, compared with Instagram, may actually be “more dangerous” because of the demographics of its users. The video app surpassed 1 billion active monthly users in September, 60% of whom are between the ages of 16 and 24.

TikTok-specific features have prompted a number of concerns unique to the platform, research from UltraViolet found. TikTok’s “For You” page, a feed of videos from accounts users may not even follow that is recommended by an algorithm based on viewing history, makes it possible for problematic content to start “trending” with little friction. One experiment by the Lowy Institute found, for example, that TikTok’s politically neutral feed turned conservative and far-right in just a day of looping, liking and sharing certain content.

Todd said TikTok’s use of augmented reality camera filters can also contribute to negative body image, especially for young girls. While both Snapchat and Instagram have said they won’t allow filters that promote or mimic plastic surgery, TikTok has dozens of beauty filters that let young girls change their skin, face shape, body shape and more.

“This contributes to creating an impossible standard of beauty,” she said.

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The cost of coming forward: What sexual assault survivors face when speaking out

(USA Today)

More and more women have felt comfortable telling the stories of abuse and harassment in the wake of the #MeToo movement. But coming forward still carries the risk of retaliation, particularly when someone is a public figure.

Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of women’s advocacy group UltraViolet, said the women publicly accusing Cuomo, the New York governor, face extreme risk in the process.

Cuomo, she said, has for years been seen as untouchable. Publicly accusing someone at that level of power comes with emotional and mental ramifications, but also with the added risks of being attacked online, enduring campaigns aimed at undermining their credibility, and possibly being fired from a job or not hired for a job because of the notoriety they take on.

“There’s no real path to holding him accountable in a way that doesn’t damage you as the outer,” Thomas said. “It’s going to take a tremendous amount of courage and willingness to put yourself in a position of being attacked by a well-oiled government machine that has been put in place to protect Gov. Cuomo his entire career.”

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Advocacy Group Accuses Sheryl Sandberg of Turning Facebook Into ‘Right Wing Playground’


Sheryl Sandberg is under fire for her work as Facebook Chief Operating Officer during the 2016 election. Women’s advocacy group UltraViolet is backpedaling their previous support for Sandberg ahead of the upcoming election.

The press release, titled “UltraViolet Says Facebook is Powering Violence that Harms Women” accuses the COO of Facebook of turning the social media platform into a “right-wing playground.”

UltraViolet co-founder and executive director Shaunna Thomas elaborated: “In 2012, UltraViolet members stood up for Sheryl Sandberg and called for her to be added to Facebook’s board of directors – thinking she was a smart and empathetic leader who cared deeply about improving the lives of all women. We were wrong.”

Adding: “Sheryl Sandberg is in a position where she could have been a champion for women facing attacks on Facebook, but she and Mark Zuckerberg have turned Facebook into a right-wing playground where misogyny, racism, disinformation, violence, and hateful conspiracy theories grow and spread. Women deserve better.”

Thomas shared the quote on Twitter. “Sheryl Sandberg tells women to ‘lean in’, and when they do, they are attacked on the platform she helps run,” Thomas wrote. “We’ve had enough. Look out for an ad from us this weekend calling her and Facebook out and demanding changes NOW.”

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Advocates worry Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation could undercut efforts to curb sexual assault

(The 19th)

“The point of view that’s forwarded is that sexual assault is a function of individual behaviors — it’s one bad apple — but that institutions have no role to play, that they’re not liable,” said Shaunna Thomas, the executive director of Ultraviolet, a progressive group that advocates for gender equity. “It is not a function of a bad apple here and there. It is everywhere, and it is systems and institutions enabling that behavior and protecting and in some cases elevating sexual predators to positions of more power.”

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We Demand More Coalition Calls House Passage of Build Back Better Act Historic Investment in America’s Future

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UltraViolet Celebrates Passage of Historic Build Back Better Act in the House, Demands the Senate move forward to make this bill law without delay

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UltraViolet Reiterates Call to Expel Rep. Paul Gosar From Congress After Gosar Tweets Violent Video of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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New Report Card Grades Social Media Platforms on Handling of Harassment, Hate Speech, Misogyny, Disinformation

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UltraViolet Says Rep. Paul Gosar’s Violent Tweets Against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Warrants Expulsion from Congress, Permanent Twitter Ban

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UltraViolet Responds to House Passage of Infrastructure Bill in First Step Toward Build Back Better Act

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We Demand More Coalition on Last Night’s Elections; Says Democrats Must Pass Transformative Agenda to Keep Voters Mobilized

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Gender Justice Group Thanks Advocates for Reincorporation of Paid Leave into Build Back Better Act

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Gender Justice Group Says Passage of Build Back Better Act Will Benefit Millions of Women & Families, Continuing the Fight For Paid Leave

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Gender Justice Group: “Facebook Papers Prove What We Already Know”

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