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 Devi HarrisJayapal hits back at Biden on marijuana 'prohibition' Poll: Biden holds 20-point lead in South Carolina Fox News anchor apologizes for saying Booker dropped out of 2020 race MORE (D-Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenRahm Emanuel: Bloomberg, Patrick entering race will allow Democrats to have 'ideas primary' Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Jayapal hits back at Biden on marijuana 'prohibition' MORE (D-Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Fox News anchor apologizes for saying Booker dropped out of 2020 race Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president MORE (D-Minn.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersRahm Emanuel: Bloomberg, Patrick entering race will allow Democrats to have 'ideas primary' Feehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Jayapal hits back at Biden on marijuana 'prohibition' MORE (I-Vt.), along with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegThe Memo: Centrists change tone of Democratic race Poll: Biden holds 20-point lead in South Carolina Sanders reclaims second place in new 2020 poll MORE and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Democrats release two new transcripts ahead of next public impeachment hearings Press: Ukraine's not the only outrage 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."