Monday, 12 August 2019

In the News: Online Abuse of Politicians, BBC

We've been working together with the BBC to bring public attention to the issue of online abuse against politicians. Rising tensions in Q1 and Q2 of 2019 meant that politicians were seeing more verbal abuse on Twitter than we have previously observed. The findings were presented on the 6 o'clock and 10 o'clock news on Tuesday, August 6th, and you can see in the histogram above that we found the level of incivility rising to almost 4%. You can see the BBC article describing the work here.

The BBC also did a survey. They found 139 MPs out of the 172 who responded to their survey who said either they or their staff had faced abuse in the past year. More than 60% (108) of those who replied said they had been in contact with the police about threats in the last 12 months.

We found that levels of abuse on Twitter fluctuate over time, with spikes driven by events such as the death of IS bride Shamima Begum's baby or key events in the Brexit negotiations. Labour MP David Lammy has received the most abuse of any MP on Twitter so far this year.

As previously, we also found that on average, male MPs attract significantly more general incivility than female ones, though women attract more sexist abuse. Conservative MPs on average, as previously, attracted significantly more abuse than Labour ones, perhaps because they are in power. Sexist abuse is the most prevalent, as compared with homophobia or racism.

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