While campaigning was underway for the October 17 New Zealand general elections, more than 200,000 abusive tweets were directed towards female candidates, including incumbent Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, it was revealed on Friday.
During the campaigns, Parity BOT, which has been working to find and combat the abusive tweets, picked up more than 200,000 ‘toxic’ messages, with most directed at Ardern, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins and MP Chloe Swarbrick, The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported.
Jacqueline Comer, the creative technologist working with Areto Labs to bring this technology to New Zealand for the first time, said the bot detected a ‘toxic’ tweet by processing messages to candidates through a machine-learning model with filters.
However, the bot solely focused on women candidates to “raise awareness that women candidates tend to face greater toxicity on social media", she was quoted as saying.
Hence there was no data to compare ‘toxic’ messages to male candidates in New Zealand.
The women often received “awful" messages, with the filters able to pick up on profanity, talk of sexual violence, rape and death threats, according to Comer.
“They are quite vile and quite disappointing," she added.
Ardern secured a second term after winning landslide majority in the recently-conducted elections.
Her Labour Party won 49 per cent of the vote, which transfers to 64 seats in the 120-member Parliament in a Mixed-Member Proportional voting system, with the opposition National Party, headed by Collins, lagged behind at 27 per cent, or 35 seats.
Official results of the election will be released on November 6.