UK

Diane Abbott Receives Almost Half Of All Abusive Tweets Sent To Female MPs, Amnesty Finds

'I’m abused as a female politician and I’m abused as a black politician.'

05/09/2017 13:53 BST | Updated 05/09/2017 15:30 BST

Labour’s Diane Abbott received almost half of all abusive tweets sent to female MPs in the run up to the General Election, a new report from Amnesty International has found.

Excluding the shadow home secretary, black and Asian women MPs received 35% more abusive tweets than their white counterparts.

There are now 208 women in the House of Commons, up from 191 in 2015.

PA Wire/PA Images
Diane Abbott received almost half of all abusive tweets sent to female MPs in the run up to the General Election.

Abbott received 10 times more abuse than any other woman MP in the run-up to the General Election and eight times more abuse than any other woman MP during the entire period of analysis.

Out of the 140,057 tweets mentioning @HackneyAbbott, 8,121 tweets - 5.8% - were identified as abusive. 

Abbott was sent 45.14% of all abuse tweets in the six-week period in the run up to June’s election.

“Although [I’m] not entirely surprised by the results of the research, it is truly sickening to see it in figures,” she said.

“These individuals believe it is acceptable to hurl this level of abuse directly at me, knowing there are little to no consequences to their actions,” Abbott told Amnesty.

Amnesty
Number of abusive tweets per day against women MPs categorised by race

The research also showed that between January 1 and June 8, Abbott received 31.61% of all abusive tweets against women MPs.

These included racist tweets, rape threats and death threats, as well as pictures of swastikas and chimps.

Amnesty said that Abbott is an example of how intersectional discrimination works, with the comments not just being sexist and misogynistic, but also racist.

The Labour MP said that the online abuse directed at women of colour meant that some women would become hesitant about entering politics.

I’m abused as a female politician and I’m abused as a black politician. Diane Abbott

Abbott, who was first elected as an MP 30 years ago, said that the sheer volume of abuse directed at her now, compared to when she assumed office, is overwhelming.

“When I was a new member of parliament, you might get one racist letter a week.

“But that was because if you were racist and you wanted to abuse an MP, you had to write a letter, you had to put it in an envelope, you had to put a stamp on it and you had to put it in the letter-box.

“Now, some days, we can get hundreds of items of abuse, depending on what happened the previous day.”

Abbott recalled the response she received after she spoke about her experience of online abuse in a parliamentary debate.

“My office got flooded with communications, both by letter and by email. People sent us emails and letters full of swastikas, people sent us postcards and letters with pictures of monkeys and chimps.

“People sent us hundreds of emails using the word n***er — that’s the sort of response we get. It’s highly racialised and it’s also gendered because people talk about rape and they talk about my physical appearance in a way they wouldn’t talk about a man.

“I’m abused as a female politician and I’m abused as a black politician.”

Labour MPs have sent messages of support to Abbott.

Amnesty’s analysis also showed that Asian women MPs receive 132 abusive tweets per MP - 30% higher than white women MPs who receive 92 abusive tweets per MP.

Amnesty
Number of abusive tweets received by women MPs categorised by race.

Including Abbott in the figures, black MPs were found to receive 2,781 abusive tweets per MP, but when the Labour MP is excluded from the analysis, the findings show black women MPs receive 81 abusive tweets per MP.