Web Creator Lists Ways to Fight Online Hostility to Women

Tim Berners-Lee releases research showing more than half of women and girls have faced abuse
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 12, 2020 5:48 PM CDT
Web Creator Lists Ways to Fight Online Hostility to Women
Tim Berners-Lee speaks Thursday near Geneva, Switzerland.   (Fabrice Coffrini/Pool, Keystone via AP)

This isn't what Tim Berners-Lee had in mind. So he used the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the World Wide Web—which is his creation—to call attention to an online problem and outline possible remedies. "The web is not working for women and girls," he said Thursday in releasing new research that shows more than half of young women and girls worldwide have faced abuse online, USA Today reports. The research, which came from his foundation and the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, said the abuse includes threatening messages, sexual harassment and the sharing of private images without consent. Of the young people surveyed, it found that 84% say the problem is getting worse. The findings square with a 2017 report from the Pew Research Center, which said almost 70% of 18- to 29-year-olds have been subjected to abuse online.

The online violence silences women, Berners-Lee said, depriving them of opportunity and the world of their contributions and opinions. "The web has to work for everyone," he said, per ZDNet. He suggested a series of steps to make that happen, including making solving the problem a priority for governments and companies, passing laws to hold those who commit gender-based abuse online accountable, and ensuring law enforcement agencies have the resources to prosecute those crimes. And everyone, Berners-Lee said, needs to speak up when they see women and girls threatened. "It's important that young men don't see this as acceptable behavior," the director of his World Wide Foundation said, "that they aren't taught that toxic masculinity online is OK." (Read more Tim Berners-Lee stories.)

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