Domestic violence protest

On Sunday, thousands of people across the world disturbingly seemed to cheer on domestic violence against women on Twitter.

In reality, there is no reason to ever beat your girlfriend. According to people on Twitter, there are thousands.

The hashtag #reasonstobeatyourgirlfiend was a worldwide trending topic Sunday as people provided real, and rather disturbing, reasons why domestic violence is OK.

“When they’re a trashy hoe,” tweeted Jackie Shubert.  

“She has her ex’s number in her phone and is friends with him and his brother on Facebook,” tweeted MrTotten from New York.

“If dinners not ready,” tweeted Stacie Naylor.

The hashtag disturbed Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech, and inspired her to start a Twitter petition to block it.

The petition currently sits on top of with more than 2,400 signatures and tweets.

“A few people tweeted me that the hashtag got started as a form of ‘dark humor,’ but domestic violence is not funny and most of the Twitter community agrees,” Kapin said in an exclusive interview with The Daily Dot. “While the hashtag was started by some twisted folks who think that beating women is funny, it was really powerful to see a lot of the Twitter community come together, take on the hashtag and publicly take a stand against domestic violence.”

One of these people was Noelle McReynolds, of Berkley, California, who personally responded to anyone who used the hashtag.

“RT @krazisexiicool: RT @iFreshBieber: » There is no #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend a real man doesn’t hit a woman,” McReynold’s tweeted.

According to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, about 1.3 million women are victims of domestic violence and about one third of female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner every year.

While #reasonstobeatyourgirlfiend might have started as a joke, it certainly benefits no one to keep it going, said Jessica Mack, senior editor at Gender Across Borders, a blog that discusses issues or race, gender and sexuality.

“I think an ironic hashtag about domestic violence does about as much good for the issue as a ‘save the boobies’ campaign on Facebook does for breast cancer. In other words, it does no good,” Mack said in an interview with The Daily Dot. “For all the potential Twitter and other social media platforms have for affecting positive social change, to see something like this, frankly, is both embarrassing and disappointing.”

Twitter has said in the past that as a company, it has an obligation to protect its users’ freedom of speech.

“We don’t always agree with the things people choose to tweet, but we keep the information flowing irrespective of any view we may have about the content,” wrote Twitter on its blog in January. “Our position on freedom of expression carries with it a mandate to protect our users’ right to speak freely.”

That post was written by Twitter cofounder Biz Stone, who left the company in June.

Choosing which tweets to highlight on Twitter’s homepage is not the same as blocking tweets from the system entirely. And on that matter, Twitter may be changing its policy, according to its top executive.

“The trends are algorithmic, not chosen by us but we edit out any w/ obscenities & I’d like to see clearly offensive out too,” tweeted Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter.

As CEO, Costolo has been trying to increase Twitter’s appeal to advertisers, in part by placing promoted trends on top of organic trends like #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend. Without some screening of trends, that may not prove a winning combination.

And yet, at the end of the day, it’s not Twitter’s role to censor content, Mack said. It’s up to people to learn about domestic violence and know that their words can offend people.

“I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Twitter to ban such trending topics, but rather it should be our responsibility – or at least aspiration – as Twitter users to be aware, sensitive, and enlightened enough not to engage,” Mack said. “To me, it’s a clear reminder that this is an issue millions need education and sensitization on.”

Photo by raeallen

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