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A disinformation expert's guide on combatting online abuse

The Instagram app icon on the screen of a mobile device. (Jenny Kane/AP)
The Instagram app icon on the screen of a mobile device. (Jenny Kane/AP)

Editor’s Note: This edition contains descriptions of online abuse that some listeners will find disturbing. It may not be appropriate for children.

When disinformation researcher Nina Jankowicz put out a video debunking wild claims she saw on social media …

“I received for about two weeks straight hundreds of tweets an hour dissecting my appearance in every way, making fun of the way I spoke, making fun of the way I looked,” she says.” And it’s not even that bad compared to what a lot of people receive.”

So, Jankowicz went deeper. She investigated how 13 female politicians of both parties were treated online in the 2020 election.

“We found over 336,000 pieces of gendered abuse and harassment, most of which was targeted then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris,” she says.

Threats of rape, murder and more.

“Some women make the calculation, especially when it gets violent, when their families are threatened, when a SWAT team shows up at their door,” Jankowicz says. “Then those women have to make the calculation, and often the calculation is that they’re going to protect their families and step back.”

Today, On Point: How to fight online abuse of women.


Nina Jankowicz, disinformation fellow at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan think tank. Author of “How to Be A Woman Online.” (@wiczipedia)

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Saleen Martin, reporter on USA TODAY’s NOW team. (@Saleen_Martin)

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This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.