On July 15, 2006, Twitter was launched and it quickly became an integral part of our daily lives. Developed by Noah Glass, Biz Stone, Evan Williams, and Jack Dorsey, the social networking device quickly became a seamless part of how people get their news, share their ideas and stay in touch with their favorite celebrities. Today there are 330 million active Twitter accounts and women make up about 47 percent of Twitter users. Twelve years since Twitter’s debut, women across the globe use the platform to promote their voices.
Even though men created Twitter, female celebrities have leveraged the platform to connect with fans and spread their messages with the world. In fact, half of the top 10 most-followed people on Twitter are women. The most followed person on Twitter is Katy Perry (@katyperry) with 109.53 million followers. Other famous female celebrities near the top of the most-followed Twitter list are Rihanna (@Rihanna) with 88.56 million, Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) with 85.57 million, Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) with 78.81 million, and Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) with 78.04 million.
Despite the ways that women have been dominating Twitter, the social media platform has also been criticized for not doing enough to protect women from online abuse. For example, “Saturday Night Live” star Leslie Jones was a victim of racist and sexist attacks sent by white supremacist groups. Feminist writers, including Lauren Duca and Jessica Valenti, have been vocal about the misogynistic atmosphere that continues to exist on Twitter. In March 2018, Amnesty International published a report about how Twitter is failing to respect women’s rights online: “Twitter is a platform where violence and abuse against them flourishes, often with little accountability.”
Despite these serious concerns, Twitter was a central organizing platform for the #MeToo movement. On October 15, 2017, actress and activist Alyssa Milano wrote on Twitter that sharing a #MeToo story as a social media status “might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault.” Within 24 hours, the #MeToo hashtag, along with personal experiences from celebrities and everyday people, was tweeted nearly 500,000 times. Activist Tarana Burke had come up with the concept long before hashtags, but thanks to Twitter millions of women were able to share their stories of abuse with the goal of empowering one another.
On Twitter’s twelfth birthday, we celebrate all the ways that it has helped embolden women’s voices. We also look forward to Twitter using its technology and vast influence to help create an even more safe and empowering space for women.