I WAS recently asked about my experiences using the internet as a woman and the ways in which misogyny impacts my online interactions, as there is a discussion surrounding the introduction of a new online safety bill at the moment.

It is hoped that through stricter regulation of the content permitted by social media companies, we might be able to make the internet a lot safer for everyone, particularly children and marginalised people.

The bill seeks faster removal of both illegal content, and content which violates a site’s terms of service, in conjunction with more safeguarding tools which can improve the user’s online experience.

People who receive regular and consistent abuse online are well aware of the tools put in place to negate the effects of the hatred – and the unfortunate limitations of those tools.

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Blocking someone is extremely ineffective when the creation of an anonymous account takes mere minutes, social media companies have handed the evaluation of reported content to AI algorithms, ensuring that action is rarely taken to address offensive material, and each of these steps require the material in question to be viewed by their intended recipient before any action can be taken in the first place.

One of the more controversial aspects of the bill is the manner in which it seeks to end or limit anonymous browsing, a double-edged sword when it comes to preventing online abuse.

Limits to privacy, freedom of speech and of expression are the main issues raised by critics of the bill, with many reluctant to hand over personal details to social media corporations.

The bill has the potential to impose fines upon social media companies of up to £18 million, or 10% of their annual global turnover, whichever is the larger figure if the do not comply with the terms of the bill, which many believe could lead companies to err on the side of caution and take an overzealous approach to the deletion or restriction of content.

The potential for censorship of "controversial" topics (such as protest, activism and criticism of people in power), presents a challenge for which the bill will need to provide a response.

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The limitation of expression, ironically, is already taking place prior to the implementation of the bill, as the Council of Europe notes that, "Violence and abuse online may limit women’s right to express themselves equally, freely and without fear. Cyberviolence affects women disproportionately, not only causing them psychological harm and suffering but also deterring them from digital participation in political, social and cultural life."

Image-based sexual abuse, cyberstalking, rape threats and other forms of misogynistic abuse form a major part of the wider context of violence against women and girls. The UN states, "In many countries, three quarters or more of the victims of online hate speech are members of minority groups. Women belonging to these groups are disproportionately targeted."

This kind of harassment prevents people from being able to express themselves and precludes productive discussions, creating an openly hostile environment. Sometimes the safest option is to abandon the online platform entirely, another voice silenced, another victim failed.

It is clear that legislation must address the unprecedented levels of hostility towards marginalised groups in order to make online spaces more accessible and conducive to the freedom of expression of all people.

I want to note that just as there are many different worlds that people experience depending on their level of privilege and power, there are also many different internets.

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Anyone can be a victim of online abuse, however I have male colleagues who mostly receive disagreement and constructive criticism whereas my female peers regularly face blatant sexual harassment, reduction to their reproductive or aesthetic value, or just entirely dismissed due to the fact they are female.

This abuse is compounded when the recipient is a person of colour, disabled, LGBTQ+ or any combination thereof, and it is clear the various intersections of bigotry are not being adequately addressed by social media companies.

Throughout the writing of this article I’ve started to actually take note of the misogynistic messages, which is quite possibly the least fun wee experiment I’ve ever done.

It’s been quite a bad few days and I’ve had everything ranging from being called a "filthy harlet" [sic] to someone saying they only follow me online in the hopes "she will bear my children", to someone saying "I'll wait for your small female brain to comprehend common sense or logic", not to mention the person who simply said, "more tits", or the one who told me they wanted to have sex with me "ready for it or not".

I've heard all this kind of thing before, in a 100,000 variations, but the sentiment behind each is the same: women are lesser, should be treated as such and reminded of this at every available opportunity.

To some people, regardless of our level of education, professionalism, personal development or passion, no matter how hard we work, fight and try, we will always be the little girl that forgot her place, or the sex object that shouldn't be speaking.

Through a combination of infantilisation, intimidation, sexualisation and dehumanisation, a woman's silence is to be coerced.

It still hurts, but has transitioned from the sharp stab of surprise to the dull ache of resignation. I will be fine, I think, but many won't, and their voices will disappear from the online space.

The comments will be deleted, the commenters will be blocked, the cycle will continue. Increasingly, it seems the choices are to become desensitised, demoralised or de-platformed entirely. This car is slowly filling up, sinking into a lake of bigotry, you can either get out, learn to breathe water, or drown.

Misogyny, much like other forms of bigotry, is pervasive, persistent, it's the constant drip of dehumanisation and disrespect that is all the more personal when the words are typed out and sent straight to your phone.

I hope the legislation somehow manages to strike the perfect balance between freedom of expression and the freedom to exist in the online space without constant harassment.

I hope that the children of today never have to be exposed to the kind of hate that would preclude them from following their passions, and I hope more than anything that people might consider the person on the other end of their comments, the someone behind the screen.