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Twitter and Facebook failing to protect women MPs from abuse, Joint Human Rights Committee says

The Joint Human Rights Committee accused Facebook and Twitter of failing to do enough to protect female MPs and other public figures from online abuse during an evidence session yesterday (1 May).

Amnesty International – which has been documenting the worryingly high levels of abuse that exists on social media platforms since 2017 and has exposed how women in high profile positions often face violent or misogynistic abuse – welcomed the intervention but said social media companies need to do more to make sure all women are safe to use their platforms.

Chiara Capraro, Amnesty International's Women's Human Rights Programme Manager, said:

“It’s welcome to see the Joint Human Rights Committee taking a serious stand against the failings of social media companies to protect women MPs and other public figures from the horrifying levels of abuse that they face.

“Amnesty’s research has shown that the online space has become a new frontier for human rights abuses to play out. On Twitter the issue is endemic, with an MP or journalist being subject to abuse every 30 seconds.

High profile women are often particular targets, but this is a problem that extends far beyond the walls of Westminster. Online violence is happening on a scale probably far greater than we know, but social media companies aren’t being transparent about the levels of abuse on their platform. This data is urgently needed if the problem is going to be tackled properly.   

“Social media companies must do more to ensure that all women – especially black, minority ethnic and LGBTI women – are safe to use social media without fear of being trolled or receiving harmful abuse.”

Amnesty’s research showed that during the UK’s 2017 election, online abuse affected Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women MPs far more than their white colleagues. The 20 BAME MPs interviewed received almost half (41%) of the abusive tweets, despite there being almost eight times as many white MPs in the study. In December last year, the results of a ground-breaking study by Amnesty revealed that women politicians and journalists from the UK and US received abuse every 30 seconds on Twitter.

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