Facebook, Google, TikTok, and Twitter have vowed to improve women's safety on their respective platforms, agreeing to a set of commitments during the United Nations Generation Equality Forum.
The commitments focus on improving systems for reporting abuse and offering features that give women more control over their online experience.
They were developed as part of a year-long initiative led by the World Wide Web Foundation. The foundation worked with 120 people comprised of experts from various tech companies, governments, and civil society as well as women who have been affected by online abuse. In total, 35 countries were represented. The aim of the initiative was to co-create solutions to the problems women face online.
The agreement from the four platforms follows an open letter addressed to their respective CEOs that demanded action. The letter from the Web Foundation-led consortia said it was vital to put into action two priorities women have said are critical for their safety: More control of their experiences on the platforms and better reporting systems.
"Rather than a one-size-fits-all experience, women should have more control over who can interact with them on tech platforms, as well as more choice over what, when, and how they see content online," the letter said.
"Current tools need to be improved so women can easily report abuse and track the progress of these reports. For example, dashboards that show users the status of all their reports in one place, features to guide them through the reporting process, and tools that offer women access to additional support when it's needed, could make a huge difference."
The tech giants agreed.
According to the foundation stood up by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, the commitments are a critical step forward in tackling widespread online abuse that affects millions of women around the world and poses a growing threat to progress on gender equality.
"The statistics are stark: 38% of women globally have directly experienced abuse online," the foundation said, citing research from The Economist. "This figure rises to 45% for Gen Zs and Millennials. For women of colour, for Black women in particular, for women from the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalised groups, the abuse is often far worse.
"The consequences can be devastating, causing mental and physical harm, silencing women's voices, and delivering an economic blow to those who rely on tech platforms for their livelihoods."
"For too long, women have been routinely harassed, attacked, and subsequently silenced in online spaces," Web Foundation senior policy manager Azmina Dhrodia added. "This is a huge threat to progress on gender equality. 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."
The letter also asked the four CEOs -- Shou Zi Chew, Jack Dorsey, Sundar Pichai, and Mark Zuckerberg -- to imagine what they could achieve by following through on such commitments.
"An online world where a journalist can engage with feedback on her reporting, not assassinations of her character. Where a politician may read complaints about her policies, but not threats of rape and murder. Where a young woman can share what she wants to on her terms, knowing there are systems to keep her safe and hold harassers accountable," the letter said.
"If you build this better internet for women, you will build a better internet for everyone. You have the way. Now show the world that you also have the will."
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