Diane Abbott talks about "sheer levels of hatred" she receives online

***Please be advised quotes include offensive language***

“It’s the volume of it which makes it so debilitating, so corrosive, and so upsetting.” - Diane Abbott MP, in new Amnesty video

“It’s time Twitter woke up to the damaging impact abuse has on female MPs and on women thinking of entering politics” – Azmina Dhrodia, Amnesty

Diane Abbott has revealed some of the shocking abuse she receives and its impact on her and her staff, in a new video interview as part of an Amnesty investigation published this week into online abuse against women MPs in the UK ahead of the general election in June.

In the video, Diane Abbott says:

“I welcome scrutiny, I welcome engagement and I welcome debate and that’s why I was so positive about these platforms. But the problem is when people are not engaging in debate or scrutiny but just showering you with abuse: that you’re a nigger; that you’re a prostitute; threats against your safety. It’s just abuse which has no political content which actually people wouldn’t say in a meeting or to your face.

“It’s the volume of it which makes it so debilitating, so corrosive, and so upsetting. It’s the sheer volume and the sheer level of hatred.”

Amnesty analysed the accounts of 177 women MPs active on Twitter between January and June this year, and found that they received a total of 25,688 abusive tweets in that period. The investigation also revealed that:

  • Diane Abbott received almost half (45.14%) of all abusive tweets in the run up to the election
  • Excluding Diane Abbott, black and Asian women MPs in Westminster received 35% more abusive tweets than white women MPs
  • Online abuse cuts across party lines, affecting women from all UK political parties

Not only does Diane Abbott top the list of MPs for largest number of abusive tweets received, but she received ten times more abuse than any other woman MP in the run-up to the election and eight times more abuse than any other woman MP during the entire period of analysis.

Amnesty’s research also shows that Asian women MPs receive on average 132 abusive tweets per MP. This is 30% higher than white women MPs who receive an average of 92 abusive tweets per MP. Given the disproportionately high levels of abuse against Diane Abbott, black women MPs were found to receive 2,781 abusive tweets per MP — but when Diane Abbott is excluded from the analysis — the findings show black women MPs receive 81 abusive tweets per MP.

Diane Abbott adds:

“The people who go online to abuse women and black people, they want to drive us out of the public space and ultimately they want to destroy us as people.”

The research also found that online abuse crosses party lines, with women from the three largest political parties in the top five in the list of most abuse received on Twitter.

Along with Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry (Labour), Joanna Cherry (SNP), Amber Rudd (Conservative) and Angela Rayner (Labour) made up the five women MPs receiving the most abuse in the six weeks prior to June’s election. Jess Phillips (Labour) and Anna Soubry (Conservative) also came in the top five for the highest number of abusive tweets during the wider period of analysis between January and June.

Azmina Dhrodia, Amnesty International’s Technology and Human Rights researcher, said:

“Nearly a hundred years after women won the right to vote, there is a real danger that online abuse will have a chilling effect on women taking part in public life - particularly women of colour who already make up a disproportionately smaller number of women MPs. They may choose to limit their participation online, self-censor the content they post or sometimes leave social media platforms all together.

“Quite simply, online abuse on this scale does not and should not have to exist on social media platforms. It’s time Twitter truly woke up to the damaging impact abuse has on female MPs and on women thinking of entering politics. It must do more to combat these attempts to silence women online, especially when they are in breach of their own ‘hateful conduct’ policies.”

Analysis of the research, graphs and example tweets can be found here: https://medium.com/@AmnestyInsights/unsocial-media-tracking-twitter-abuse-against-women-mps-fc28aeca498a

 

 

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