Online abuse of MPs rocketed between 2015 and 2017, analysis of more than one million tweets shows.
Twitter insults aimed at politicians rose from about 10,000 during the 2015 general election to just under 25,000 during the snap 2017 poll, although the number of total tweets also rose over that period.
The abuse seemed unaffected by party or gender, according to the project leader, Professor Kalina Bontcheva from the University of Sheffield.
Twitter insults aimed at politicians rose from about 10,000 during the 2015 general election to just under 25,000 during the snap 2017 poll, although the number of total tweets also rose over that period
She said: ‘The increase in abuse towards public figures is a shocking development and one that the Government is right to take seriously. If people are dissuaded from standing for election, then our representation on a democratic level is under threat.’
Twitter is not doing enough to tackle abuse, said Labour MP Stephen Doughty. He tweeted an example of abuse directed at him alongside Twitter’s response that it did not violate policies.
He said: ‘If you wonder why Facebook, Twitter etc are becoming increasingly difficult places, here’s another example of abuse and the response of the social media companies, who think we deserve a different threshold of abuse “to allow discourse”.’ Lesser-known MPs received proportionally higher levels of abuse than more famous politicians.
Boris Johnson’s Twitter timeline contained 6.6 per cent abusive tweets in 2015, rising to 9.3 per cent, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had 4.6 per cent abusive tweets in 2015, jumping to 8.55 per cent two years later.
Labour’s Diane Abbott received 2.5 per cent abusive tweets in 2015, which rose to 3.4 per cent, whereas Ed Miliband received 5.6 per cent abusive tweets when he was party leader in 2015, which fell to 3.3 per cent after he stepped down.
In 2015, users who tweeted abusive replies were more concerned with the economy, but two years later national security became a greater concern.
Cabinet Office minister Chloe Smith, responding to the research, said: ‘We can’t let intimidation of people in public life continue unchecked.’