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Female 2020 candidates attacked online more than men: analysis

Female 2020 candidates attacked online more than men: analysis
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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.

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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 HarrisA call to action for strategic space competition with China Old-guard Democrats must end the filibuster and symbolic progress Biden job approval at 43 percent in Iowa: poll MORE (D-Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate to vote on elections bill Supreme Court battle could wreak havoc with Biden's 2020 agenda Progressives fear nightmare scenario over voting rights assault MORE (D-Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSchumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster Senate GOP blocks voting rights bill The antitrust package is a Trojan horse conservatives must reject MORE (D-Minn.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersSchumer vows next steps after 'ridiculous,' 'awful' GOP election bill filibuster Schumer, Pelosi meeting with White House on infrastructure Feehery: 8 reasons why Biden should take the bipartisan infrastructure deal MORE (I-Vt.), along with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegHigh-speed rail getting last minute push in Congress Buttigieg: Bipartisan deal on infrastructure 'strongly preferred' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden ends infrastructure talks with key Republican | Colonial Pipeline CEO grilled over ransomware attack | Texas gov signs bills to improve power grid after winter storm MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBaltimore police chief calls for more 'boots on the ground' to handle crime wave Biden to deliver remarks at Sen. John Warner's funeral Garland dismisses broad review of politicization of DOJ under Trump 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."