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Twitter ‘must act over abuse targeting black women’

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Twitter must take action to stop black female politicians and journalists being disproportionately targeted with abuse on the social media platform, Diane Abbott has urged.

The shadow home secretary said her staff spend a “considerable amount of time” blocking or removing “highly offensive and misogynist” abuse directed at her on Twitter and called on bosses on the platform to act “a lot quicker” to shut down problem accounts.

It comes as an Amnesty International study found that black women were 84% more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive tweets, with one in ten posts mentioning black women containing “abusive or problematic” language.

An Indian man poses for a photograph using Twitter on his cellpohne in Siliguri on March 27, 2018. India's ruling and main opposition parties on March 26 accused each other of using social media dirty tricks to mine and share followers' personal data. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress party of Rahul Gandhi have seized upon the data breach storm surrounding Facebook and other media to score political points against one another. / AFP PHOTO / DIPTENDU DUT
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Twitter said it ‘strictly prohibits’ abuse on its platform

Ms Abbott, who in a 2017 study was found to be the female MP most targeted by abusive tweets before the general election last year, said the abuse could “lead to violence”.

She 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 than it currently does.”

She 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.”

:: Sky Views – Twitter abuse is going too far

The new study analysed 228,000 tweets sent to 778 female politicians and journalists across the political spectrum in the UK and US.

Its “Troll Patrol” crowd-sourcing project found that 7.1% of tweets to women contained abusive or problematic language.

Black female politicians and journalists were also found to be disproportionately targeted.

Kate Allen, Amnesty UK’s director, said the results proved Twitter is “endemic with racism, misogyny and homophobia”.

“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,” she added.

“The company must take concrete steps to properly protect women’s rights on the platform.”

It follows Labour MP Luciana Berger receiving numerous anti-Semitic messages on Twitter, after calling for a no-confidence vote in Theresa May.

Luciana Berger is another Labour MP who has been targeted with online abuse
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Luciana Berger was targeted with anti-Semitic abuse

Vijaya Gadde, legal, policy, and trust and safety global lead at Twitter, insisted the social media platform was “improving the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation on our service”.

She added: “Twitter uses a combination of machine learning and human review to adjudicate abuse reports and whether they violate our rules.

“Our abusive behaviour policy strictly prohibits behaviour that harasses, intimidates or silences another users voice.

“We are also transparently investing in better technology and tools to enable us to more proactively identify abusive, violative material, to limit its spread and reach on the platform and to encourage healthier conversations.”

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