Female scientists have claimed that social media is facilitating "brutal" and "sickening" misogyny after trolls repeatedly targeted the woman whose work contributed to the first picture of a black hole in space.
Dr Katie Bouman was targeted this week by internet trolls, who said she was falsely claiming ownership of the black hole project and attributed the breakthrough to her male colleague, computer scientist Andrew Chael.
British professor Dame Athene Donald, the first female physics lecturer at Cambridge University and a gender equality campaigner, said social media was making us go "backwards" in the fight for equal rights.
"Misogyny has become so easy and facilitated by social media," she said. "It's terribly easy for people to get their kicks out of it and it's sickening. I don't think it would stop women from pursuing a career in STEM but it is enough for them to not want to put their name out there."
Trolls targeted Dr Bouman after MIT shared a photograph of her in front of the black hole image on Twitter, which was liked millions of times and gained her comparisons to female scientist Margaret Hamilton, who wrote the code for the Apollo space programme.
Dr Bouman's phone was quickly overrun with messages and had to be switched off, according to the New York Times.
However, internet trolls were quick to claim that her contribution to the project was a "hoax".
They created dozens of fake accounts that impersonated Dr Bouman on Twitter, which were taken down after they were reported by other users.
There are still several accounts impersonating her on Instagram, which have not been removed.
Videos that attempted to discredit her work appeared at the top of YouTube's search results when users typed in her name.
Footage titled "Katie Bouman falsely credited for black hole algorithm by media" and "Woman does 6% of the work but gets 100% of the credit: Black hole photo" were viewed thousands of times.
Although YouTube's algorithm now shows newsworthy videos at the top, the videos attacking Dr Bouman are still available on the site.
Meanwhile, Wikipedia has blocked the right to edit a page on Dr Bouman, citing "persistent IP vandalism". The site's editors noted that one person was "obsessed with adding the irrelevant fact that she's childless".
Dr Emma Chapman, a Royal Astronomical Society Research Fellow at Imperial College London, said the treatment of Dr Bouman was "brutal".
"We see it to a degree again and again with prominent women in media, not just in science," she said. "Everyone will forget this, except the people who have had a life changing moment and now it is utterly tainted."
Mr Chael branded this behaviour as "awful and sexist" and told trolls insisting that he did all the work to "stop".
He said on Twitter: "If you are congratulating me because you have a sexist vendetta against Katie, please go away and reconsider your priorities in life."
Over 200 scientists, including researchers from University College London, were involved in the discovery announced last week to produce an image described as ‘the gates of hell, at the end of space and time.’
Black holes had only previously been seen indirectly though their impact on nearby galaxies and stars.