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2018 National Women's Conference
1 January 2018

Conference applauds Yvette Cooper for her stand against sexist online abuse suffered by her and other leading women MPs during the general election. In a speech to Labour Party conference she said “unless misogyny on the internet is challenged, more women’s voices will be silenced, and more women will be oppressed or feel prevented from speaking out – just as if we’d gone back to the Victorian age.”

She highlighted the scale of misogynistic abuse online, with women threatened and told they will be raped or killed for speaking out.

High profile cases include historian Mary Beard, who was attacked for her appearance; Kate Smurthwaite, a comedian who received 2,000 abusive tweets for objecting when a men’s rights activist called her “darling” in a TV debate; Emily Grossman, a scientist who received so many hostile tweets when she talked about sexism in her profession that she took a break from social media. and Caroline Criado-Perez who received around 50 abusive tweets an hour, including rape and death threats, over a 12-hour period after she successfully campaigned for Jane Austen to feature on the new £10 note.

Recent research by Amnesty International shows that women MPs of all parties received 25,000 abusive messages in the last six months, with nearly half of them directed at the Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott

Women not in the public eye are also subjected to abuse, trolling and stalking on social media and dating sites.

Recent research for the Reclaim the Internet campaign revealed that:

• 10,000 tweets were sent from UK accounts in three weeks aggressively attacking women as a “slut” or a “whore”.

• According to the largest teaching union in the UK NASUWT, over half of teachers report receiving online abuse from pupils and parents.

• The Revenge Porn Helpline has received almost 4,000 calls in the last year, with cases as young as 11 years old.

Conference notes that despite there being a great deal of advice for school staff, parents and carers, from the government and other agencies including teaching unions, young girls are particularly prone to online abuse, bullying and grooming. 1 in 3 children have been the victim of online bullying via Facebook,, Snapchat, Whatsapp and other social media, as well as by direct messaging.

This Conference is disappointed at the response of Twitter often taking hours and in some cases days, if not weeks, to respond to women’s complaints and remove misogynistic posts. A recent survey by the Fawcett Society shows very few women bother to report online abuse and of those who do just 9% report that Twitter took any action.

Conference welcomes the Reclaim the Internet campaign, which aims to generate new ideas on the role of the police and prosecutors where online threats and harassment become crimes; the responsibility of social media and publishing platforms; the role of organisations and employers; support for victims including how to deal with internet trolls, and how to educate people around the effects of online abuse.

This Conference believes that everyone should have access to social media and women should not be forced to stop using it.

Conference calls on the national women’s committee to work with the NEC, regional women’s groups and other appropriate bodies to:

• Liaise with the Reclaim the Internet campaign;

• Raise awareness among UNISON members of the campaign, and encourage branches and regions to support the campaign and its objectives;

• Promote the LAOS training materials on online safety to branches and regions;

• Encourage UNISON women members to lodge complaints with Twitter when they face misogynist abuse;

• Work with Labour Link to campaign for changes to include misogyny in government definition’s of online and other hate crime