Female 2020 candidates attacked online more than men: analysis

Female 2020 candidates attacked online more than men: analysis
© Getty Images

Women running for the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination face a higher rate of attacks from online trolls and fake news accounts than their male counterparts, according to a study published Tuesday.

The analysis conducted by Lucina Di Meco, a fellow at The Wilson Center, and analytics firm Marvelous AI found that female presidential candidates were the focus of more tweets sharing links from fake news sites compared with male candidates in the week following their respective campaign announcements.

ADVERTISEMENT

The study, which tracked Twitter conversations for seven days following the campaign announcements of six candidates, concluded that conversations about female candidates tended to focus more on character and identity, while the conversations about men were more about policy and electability.

The analysis focused on Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisWhy Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Enlisting tech to fight coronavirus sparks surveillance fears Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats MORE (D-Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenMomentum grows to change medical supply chain from China Why Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog MORE (D-Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharWhy Gretchen Whitmer's stock is rising with Team Biden Biden says his administration could help grow 'bench' for Democrats Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout MORE (D-Minn.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Cuomo's been good, but he's not going to be the Democratic nominee Does Joe Biden really want to be president? MORE (I-Vt.), along with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg launches new PAC to aid down-ballot candidates HuffPost political reporter on why Bernie fell way behind Biden Economists fear slow pace of testing will prolong recession MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Biden to host 'virtual fireside chat' with donors Esper faces tough questions on dismissal of aircraft carrier's commander MORE.

“The role that social media platforms’ click-optimization algorithms played in spreading the misogyny and other biases is by now well documented,” Marvelous AI co-founder Olya Gurevich wrote in the study. “I believe that technologists now have the moral responsibility, as well as the opportunity, to help ameliorate the unfairness in media, and this goes beyond just changing the click incentives.”

The study also found that female candidates faced a higher rate of Twitter accounts posting links to stories about them on right-wing and so-called fake news sites, as determined by The Media Bias Fact Check.

"The nature of the coverage, however, revealed significant differences and systematic patterns along gender lines, with female candidates receiving more attacks from right-wing and fake-news accounts than male politicians," Di Meco wrote in the report.

"Overall, it’s possible to notice that while the candidates that are considered more popular and likely to win the nomination get more right-wing/fake coverage, there is an added penalty for female candidates which seems to be much bigger than the penalty for popularity," she added.

The study said female candidates should be prepared to counter narratives pushed by trolls and fake accounts, and urged the candidates to "be prepared to push back against sexism, denounce online harassment and respond to negative ads."