Andrew Tate and the conversation on online misogyny

Infamous for spreading misogynistic views online, Romanian authitiories has recently detained 36-year-old social media influencer Andrew Tate as part of a human trafficking and rape investigation. The criminal allegations against Tate calls for a review of the influencer’s controversial online career.

Boasting 3.5 million followers before Twitter decided to permanently ban his account in August, Tate’s uninhibited presence on social media had drawn great attention. This enabled him to rise to fame and infamy.

While some might defend Tate’s content creation as a right to free speech, freedom of speech should necessarily be differentiated from the abuse of it. The online sensation’s ideas have been described as ‘extreme misogyny’ by domestic abuse charities, with the dangerous potential of radicalising men to commit harm offline. This sentiment is reinforced by Hannah Ruschen, a policy officer of The NSPCC: “Viewing such material at a young age can shape a child’s experiences and attitudes, resulting in further harm to women and girls in and out of school and online.”

The sheer number of views and followers Tate has reflects the far-reaching influence he has, with videos of him being watched 11.6 billion times on TikTok. Although now banned from most mainstream social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Twitter, Tate’s misogynistic ideas in the guise of ‘masculine self-help’ has already taken roots in the minds of his audience. Teachers have reported that students as young as 12 in England have been quoting the British American infleuncer. 

The dangerous impact Tate’s messages have on shaping of misogynistic attitudes on a societal level brings tech platforms under scrutiny. Why had regulators allowed Tate’s content to proliferate at such a significant level, to the extent that it has propelled him into the mainstream? Much of Tate’s content appears to breach TikTok’s community guidelines that any content that ‘praises, promotes, glorifies, or supports any hateful ideology’ are to be banned. A spokesperson’s comment that ‘Misogyny and other hateful ideologies and behaviours are not tolerated on TikTok’ empahsises the apparent condemnation of misogyny. 

Yet, TikTok took no action until pressured by public outrage. Some argue that social media platforms such as TikTok have turned a blind eye to Tate in favour of profitability. While this remains mere conjecture, Tate’s wide audience exposes how irresponsible and malicious users can easily manipulate algorithms. 

The line between the right to freedom of speech and public harassment in online spaces often sparks controversy. Nonetheless, tech platforms should exercise more caution and evaluate their regulations to minimise the spread of hateful content and to ensure that their platforms remain safe spaces for interaction. 

The phenomenon of Andrew Tate leaves much to think about the uses and abuses of social media. However, it is important not to place the blame solely on poor online content moderation.

While online platforms may provide a medium to promote misogyny through unchecked usage, the circulation of misogynistic ideas reflect systemic sexist structures that give men the illusion that they are superior. In an opinion piece from the Guardian, Martha Gill expresses that the phenomenon of online misogyny and the rise of influencers such as Andrew Tate not as ‘feminism’s inadvertent bastard child,’ but as ‘sexism’s last gasp.’ The rise and fall of Andrew Tate not only prompts a reevaluation of the roles and responsibilities of social media but also opens up conversations about modern-day patriarchy. The allure of misogyny and toxic masculinity to certain segments of the  population demonstrates how easily susceptible we are to sexist narratives. If this tells us anything, it is that the deconstruction of long-standing supremacist power structures still requires continuous and ardent effort.

Featured Image: Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

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