December 9, 2022 | The 19th

Instagram & TikTok suggested abusive hashtags related to US female candidates, ISD finds

ISD’s latest investigation on the 2022 US midterms found that popular platforms TikTok and Instagram were prompting abusive hashtags to users searching for female political candidates. The 19th News covers our findings and spoke with report authors, Cécile Simmons and Zoé Fourel.

“We at ISD have been looking at politicized misogyny for quite a while because it has emerged as a key political tactic, particularly during elections,” Cécile told The 19th.

The researchers analyzed the top 10 recommended hashtags for 12 candidates, both on the Republican and Democratic side and from various backgrounds.

“From that, we tried to unpack how it was for different female politicians, regarding political affiliation, but also taking a two-platform approach,” said Zoé Fourel, an ISD researcher who co-authored the report with Simmons.

In almost all cases, they found that abusive hashtags were not only suggested, but also outranked others regardless of content number. The hashtags then led to “abusive content in text, video and audio forms attacking women candidates with gendered and sexualized insults.”

“There’s certainly a concerted effort to use hashtags to boost the visibility of abusive content targeting women candidates,” Cécile told The 19th.

“Republican women tended to be targeted with treason-based and political abuse, whereas people like Ilhan Omar, [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and others were targeted with content that suggested they’re not American and that they don’t belong in the U.S.,” Cécile said.

The full article is available on The 19th.