Gender differences in online abuse: the case of Dutch politicians

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Online abuse and threats towards politicians have become a significant concern in the Netherlands, like in many other countries across the world. This paper analyses gender differences in abuse received by Dutch politicians on X (formerly Twitter) while taking into account the possible additional impact of ethnic minority status. All tweets directed at party leaders throughout the entire year of 2022 were collected.

The effect of gender and ethnic minority status were estimated for six different linguistic measures of abuse, namely, toxicity, severe toxicity, identity attacks, profanity, insults, and threats. Contrary to expectations, tweets directed at male politicians scored higher on all forms of abuse. Significant interaction effects between gender and ethnic minority status were found for a number of abuse measures.

Tweets directed at ethnic minority female politicians scored higher on severe toxicity, identity attacks, and profanity, compared to those directed at ethnic majority female politicians. Importantly, female ethnic minority politicians received the highest levels of threats compared to all groups. Given that online abuse and threats are reported to have a negative effect on political participation and retention, these results are particularly worrying.

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