Over the past two days, #TheMistake GirlsMake has generated dozens of misogynistic tweets from users across the country

On Monday, and for some hours on Tuesday, one of the hashtags trending on social networking service, Twitter, was #TheMistakeGirlsMake.

It generated dozens of tweets from men and women across the country. And while some bordered on the amusing, and some others were relatively harmless, many were sexist, misogynistic and plain nasty.

One tweet said, ‘A girl being made is itself a mistake’. Other samples included: ‘Is there any right things they do?’, ‘Betray a trustworthy man by testing him with her low IQ’. There were worse ones that cannot be recorded in print.

Several tweets lamented about how women fall only for ‘jerks’, while ‘friendzoning’ decent men.

For many women in the city who are active on social media, the online space is one that must be treaded carefully. Most who tweet regularly have faced some sort of abuse online — trolls that needle, criticise, insult or even threaten.

Lavanya Mohan, a 25-year-old chartered accountant was targeted online recently after she tweeted about the fact that she was sent away from an Aadhar card centre for not wearing a dupatta.

“I got some nasty responses after that tweet, with some asking me if I was proud of ‘showing myself’. After that, I have taken to self-censoring,” she said.

The Twitter experience of women was very different to those of men, she said. “Women are definitely more vulnerable to attacks online. And though self-censorship is not the ideal solution, for my own mental peace, it is what I have had to do,” she said.

In October 2012, the city police arrested two men for harassing singer Chinmayi Sripada on Twitter. The singer said she had been the target of ‘casteist’ and ‘vulgar’ remarks.

Author Meena Kandasamy too has said in the past that she has received several abusive tweets a day. Some have included threats of rape and acid attacks.

But is policing Twitter the solution? Anupama Srinivasan, programme director, Prajnya, an organisation that works in the area of gender and sexual violence, believes not.

“With policing come the issues of infringement of one’s freedom of speech and the question of who polices what. In some ways, on the Internet, it is the same as it is on the street — some people are arrogant enough to think they can say or do what they want and get away with it. A system where one can report abuse, have it taken seriously and investigated would probably be a better solution,” she said.

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