How Instagram and TikTok hashtags highlight gendered hate toward women candidates
Searches for prominent women in politics on Instagram and TikTok ahead of the 2022 midterms produced abusive hashtags referencing the women, according to a new study from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a think tank that studies online extremism and disinformation.
The study, first shared with The 19th, demonstrates how abusive hashtags — even those with a small number of posts associated with them — gain visibility on social media platforms and fuel gendered hate toward high-profile women in politics.
“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,” ISD research manager Cécile Simmons, one of the report’s co-authors, told The 19th.
Simmons said that abusive hashtags kept popping up in researchers’ monitoring of social media content, leading them to want to take on “a more systematic study into hashtags associated with prominent women in politics.”
The researchers analyzed the top 10 recommended hashtags that came up when searching the names of 12 women candidates and officials, seven Democrats and five Republicans, on Instagram and TikTok in the days leading up to the 2022 midterms.
The researchers chose the 12 women according to party affiliation, racial diversity and the size of their following and reach on social media to ensure a representative sample. They then coded the top 10 hashtags, phrases and search terms that organize the top trending content pertaining to specific topics as abusive or not abusive.