1,220 reports of online violence towards women in NI

Amnesty International has been investigating the extent of online abuse aimed at women. Credit: AP

At least 1,220 reports of online violence towards women have been made to police in Northern Ireland in the last three years, according to Amnesty International.

Based on figures provided to the human rights organisation by police, following Freedom of Information requests, nearly 65,000 cases have been logged UK-wide since 2015.

In Northern Ireland, 30 of the 433 cases reported last year alone involved death threats against women, while another 394 cases involved harassment.

The fact that many women are feeling so threatened by online violence and abuse that they’re having to ask the police for help shows how serious a problem now exists. And these figures likely just scratch the surface of a much larger problem.

Amnesty International

The number of incidents reported in the region also rose significantly, from 276 the previous year.

Amnesty, which says the true figures may be much higher due to under-reporting, is calling on social media giants to do more to protect women.

Earlier this year, the organisation reported that it had found:

  • one in five women polled in the UK had suffered online abuse or harassment

  • almost half of women polled said abuse or harassment received was sexist or misogynistic

  • 27% said they had been threatened with sexual or physical assault

In May, following the publication of Amnesty’s report, Belfast City Council voted to call on Twitter and other social media companies to address failings in protecting women from threats and abuse.

A number of prominent female politicians in Northern Ireland have also previously spoken to Amnesty about the abuse they have received.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director of Amnesty International, said: “Amnesty’s previous research, including in Northern Ireland, has shown that, for far too long, social media spaces like Twitter have been allowed to become places where women can too easily be confronted with death threats, rape threats and more.

“Social media can play an important role in public debates and in movements like #MeToo, but the online space must be made a safer place where women can express themselves freely without fear of violence.

“We cannot let the trolls win by silencing women and driving their voices out of public conversations.”