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Diane Abbott urges Twitter to address abusive tweets

TWITTER ABUSE: Diane Abbott has been subjected to a huge amount of racism and misogyny online

DIANE ABBOTT has called on Twitter to act after a new report revealed that black women were disproportionately targeted by racist and abusive tweets on the platform.

A new Amnesty International and Element AI study has revealed that black women are 84 per cent more likely to be mentioned in an abusive or problematic tweet than white women, with one in 10 abusive or problematic tweets found to mention black women compared to one in fifteen for white women.

Abbott said: “My staff still spend a considerable amount of time removing and blocking abusive or threatening posts from social media. Overwhelmingly the abuse is of a highly offensive racist and misogynist character.

“I have always felt that this type of hate speech can lead to violence, and Twitter has a responsibility to shut these accounts down a lot quicker then it currently does.”

The shadow home secretary added: “Twitter also does not have the option to delete offensive comments once an account has been blocked. This would make a difference to conversations that are taking place.”

A previous Amnesty report published in September last year revealed that Abbott, the first black woman elected to Parliament, was targeted by almost half of all abusive tweets sent to female MPs in the lead up to the 2017 general election.

Labour MP Yvette Cooper, who founded Reclaim the Internet, a campaign to tackle online abuse, supported Abbott's comments.

She tweeted: "Completely agree with ⁦[Diane] Abbott⁩ - ⁦Twitter UK⁩ are still far too slow and weak at dealing with online racism & hate crime, with women targeted most. The abuse aimed at Diane is vile and unacceptable."

This new study, which surveyed 228,000 tweets sent to 778 female politicians and journalists in the UK and the US last year, shows that women were sent an abusive tweet once every 30 seconds on average last year.

A team of more than 6,500 volunteers from 150 countries analysed the tweets to determine if they were abusive or problematic.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director said the study’s findings support what women have been saying about the platform, that Twitter is “endemic with racism, misogyny and homophobia”.

Allen said: “The online space is an important platform for political and public conversation, and women must feel safe to express themselves and engage in debate without fear of abuse.

“Twitter is failing to be transparent about the extent of the problem, but if our volunteers can gather meaningful data about online violence and abuse, so can Twitter. The company must take concrete steps to properly protect women’s rights on the platform.”

Milena Marin, Amnesty International’s senior advisor for tactical research, said: “With the help of technical experts and thousands of volunteers, we have built the world’s largest crowdsourced dataset about online abuse against women.

“We found that, although abuse is targeted at women across the political spectrum, women of colour were much more likely to be impacted, and black women are disproportionately targeted. Twitter’s failure to crack down on this problem means it is contributing to the silencing of already marginalised voices.”

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