UK election 2019: candidates received four times the amount of online insults as in 2017

UK election 2019: candidates received four times the amount of online insults as in 2017
Copyright REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
By Alice Tidey
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Nearly 140,000 abusive tweets aimed at general election candidates were recorded in a single day of campaigning.


Candidates in Britain's general election have received four times the abuse they did ahead of the 2017 ballot, a new survey has revealed.

Analysis by political technology company PoliMonitor of nearly 140,000 tweets mentioning candidates published on November 11 — the first official working day of the campaign — showed that in 16.5% of cases candidates received abuse of insulting remarks.

"This is over four times the amount of abuse candidates were estimated to receive in the 2017 General Election," PoliMonitor said in a statement.

A vast majority (79%) of candidates received no abuse on the period analysed, with the company explaining this may have been because they received "few of no mentions at all that day" on social media.

Instead, most of the abuse was concentrated on 150 of the 2,503 candidates.

Party leaders including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour head Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson from the Liberal Democrats were the most targeted. They each respectively received 5,444, 2,550, and 2,070 abusive or insulting tweets.

Leading figures in the Conservative party including Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and James Cleverly as well as prominent Labour members Diane Abbott and Keir Starmer and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas made up the rest of the top 10.

The insults hurled at them were "likely deterring the public and politicians from having constructive conversations about policies which matter," PoliMonitor CEO Sam Cunningham said.

"Positively, the most extremely abusive terms were absent in the data analysed, suggesting social media companies and the public are getting better at stamping out the most abhorrent and unacceptable language from these important political debates," he noted.

A parliamentary report released earlier this year found that violent threats against MPs had become "commonplace".

Of the 70 MPs who decided to step down by not running for their seats again at least 14 cited the toxic nature of today’s politics in statements explaining their decisions with two female MPs linking abuse most directly to their decision to stand down.

"Nobody in any job should have to put up with threats, aggressive emails, being shouted at in the street, sworn at on social media, nor have to install panic alarms at home," Heidi Allen, who had quit the Conservatives to joint he Liberal Democrats, wrote in a letter to her constituents.

Tory MP Dame Caroline Spelman said when announcing her decision not to run again that "myself, my family and my staff, have borne an enormous brunt of abuse and I think quite frankly we’ve had enough".

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