Labour MP criticises Twitter for not removing abuse tweets

Yvette Cooper and the Fawcett Society attack Twitter for 'failure' to tackle abuse

Labour MP Yvette Cooper and women's rights charity the Fawcett Society have called on Twitter to improve the way it removes inappropriate content.

Cooper and Fawcett Society CEO Sam Smethers wrote a letterto Dara Nasr, the UK managing director of Twitter, criticising the platform for not identifying and removing abuse fast enough.

Volunteers from the Fawcett Society and Cooper's own anti-abuse campaign, Reclaim the Internet, reported a number of vile tweets to Twitter including rape threats, obscene, abusive images of women and racist and anti-Semitic attacks on public figures. However, they complained that the tweets still hadn't been taken down a week later.

Cooper and Smethers pointed to high profile cases, such as when Unite the Right used Twitter to promote the Charlottesville rally, and when historian Mary Beard posted a message about ethnic diversity in Roman Britain and was subject to a "torrent of aggressive insults". Lastly, the pair questioned why anti-Semitic abuse directed against Lucian Berger, organised by The Daily Stormer, had still not been removed after two Home Affairs Select Committee requests to do so.

Twitter eventually removed some of the tweets after Cooper and Smethers published the letter and the media circulated it.

They wrote in the letter: "We understand progress has been made in tackling abuse and that internal data showed that Twitter is 'taking action' against 10 times more abusive accounts than this time last year. This is, of course, welcome. However, we still do not believe you are going far enough or acting quickly enough to make your site an abuse-free zone."

In a Facebook post, Reclaim the Internet said: "The truth is that Twitter still ignores far too much misogyny, racism, harassment and abuse online. Their complaints system isn't working. And the result is they still turn a blind eye to vile abuse - and they are still providing a platform for hatred. This company is big enough and rich enough to get its act together."

Other examples of material that the pair flagged included racist and sexist abuse of Diane Abbott, threats against campaigner Gina Miller, abuse against the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox, Islamophobia, extreme violent language and threats of rape.

Cooper and Smethers added: "It should not take more than four days to assess and remove or respond to Twitter posts which show sexual images purporting to be rape. This suggests the process for reporting is simply not working.

"We are concerned that Twitter is swift to act when reports are made through the media or by high profile public figures, but not when these are from members of the public who form the overwhelming majority of your users."

A spokesperson for Twitter said to IT Pro: "Abuse and harassment have no place on Twitter. We've introduced a range of new tools and features to improve our platform for everyone, and we're now taking action on ten times the number of abusive accounts every day then the same time in 2016. We will continue to build on these efforts and meet the challenge head on."

A study last year found that more than 6,000 UK Twitter users were targeted by abusive and misogynistic tweets in a period of three weeks. Labour MP Stella Creasy and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez received death and rape threats after campaigning for Jane Austen to appear on a bank note in 2013.

Facebook launched a UK initiative to tackle online hate speechlast June by training non-governmental organisations to identify extremist content, and providing a dedicated support desk for users who wanted to contact Facebook directly.

IT Pro has approached Twitter for comment.

Picture: Bigstock

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