William Eichler 23 May 2017

Brexit vote marked ‘high point’ of online abuse to MPs, research reveals

An analysis over three months last year revealed 188,000 abusive tweets were sent to MPs, with Brexit marking a high point for online abuse.

BCS, the chartered institute for IT, and independent think-tank Demos found that over three months in 2017, one in 20 tweets sent to MPs were abusive.

The research also found the most abused politicians had abusive tweets making up 10% of all incoming tweets to them.

The most abusive tweets were sent on the day of the EU Referendum, with 7000 abusive tweets going out to MPs.

Two MPs who received a high volume of negative tweets were women who had spoken out about online abuse.

BCS said their research revealed people felt the anonymity afforded them by online sites such as Twitter gave them the confidence to be abusive.

They also found that people felt politicians were ‘out of touch’ and so used the Internet as a way of contacting them directly.

BCS suggested politicians work with social media platforms to create a medium tailored exclusively to political debate.

‘We are now at a critical time in the development of UK politics, and it requires new approaches,’ said David Evans, director of policy & community at BCS.

‘At BCS, our goal is to make IT good for society, that’s why, once the dust has settled on the General Election, we will be convening a round-table with some of the best minds on this topic, tech companies and have invited representatives of all main political parties to join us to discuss how we progress the debate and identify solutions for this issue.’

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