Female 2020 candidates attacked online more than men: analysis

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.

{mosads}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 Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), along with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“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.”

Tags 2020 Democrats Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Elizabeth Warren Joe Biden Online trolls Pete Buttigieg presidential candidates The Wilson Center
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