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Ofcom: Ethnic minority women ‘twice as likely’ to be sent unwanted sexual messages online

·3-min read
Women spent more time online than men, an average of 4 hours 11 minutes compared to 3 hours and 46 minutes (PA)
Women spent more time online than men, an average of 4 hours 11 minutes compared to 3 hours and 46 minutes (PA)

Media regulator Ofcom has urged tech firms to do more to keep women safe online after a report found that they were more likely to be negatively affected by internet abuse.

The study found women felt less able to share an opinion online and were more likely to be targetted by unsolicited sexual images. Women from minority ethnic backgrounds were also twice as likely to have been sent unwanted sexual messages compared to white women, it’s claimed.

Ofcom is set to become the regulator of social-media platforms in the government’s Online Harms Bill, which would place further duties on content-sharing sites to keep their users safe.

The report, which surveyed more than 6,600 adults in the UK, found that women aged 18-34 were the most likely to report that time online was negatively impacting their mental health.

In light of the findings, the regulator’s chief executive, Dame Melanie Dawes, urged tech companies to think about the impact of their products on users.

She said: “Look at your algorithms. Too many companies prioritise growth and revenue over user security and don’t really think about the impact on the front-line user.

“Let’s speak to women and make it easier for them to report things. At the moment people don’t trust that if they do report things anything will be done.”

Women spent more time online than men, an average of 4 hours 11 minutes compared to 3 hours and 46 minutes, the research found.

It also found that the majority of internet users, 67 per cent, believe that the benefits of being online outweigh the negatives. Young adults, women, and those from a minority ethnic group are more likely to be wary of the risks of going online.

Mixed ethnicity and Black internet users are also more likely than either Asian or white users to have recently come across potential harm online, the survey concluded.

According to the research, women are significantly more likely than men to say that they were bothered or offended by offensive comments and trolling online - 41 per cent for women compared to 28 per cent for men.

Two-thirds of women surveyed said they had been bothered by the experience of being trolled, significantly higher than the 25 per cent of men who said the same thing.

Women are less likely than men to feel that being online allows them to share their opinions and have a voice, with 42 per cent of women saying they are confident to share their opinions online compared to 48 per cent of men.

Women from minority ethnic backgrounds were also more likely to have been sent unwanted sexual messages compared to white women - 11 per cent compared to six per cent.

They were also three times as likely to have seen intimate images online, and four times as likely to have received an unsolicited nude image or video.

Dame Melanie Dawes said tech giants should “look in the mirror” and make sure that female staff were involved in the development of their services.

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