Twitter 'giving a platform to hatred and extremism' by failing to remove offensive posts, MP says

Hyacinth Mascarenhas
Yvette Cooper

Labour MP Yvette Cooper has launched a fresh wave of criticism against Twitter for failing to quickly take down hateful and misogynistic content from its platform. In a letter sent to the San Francisco firm, the chair of parliament's home affairs select committee and founder of the 'Reclaim the Internet' campaign to tackle online abuse slammed Twitter for doing "too little, too slowly" to tackle abuse, graphic content and racist content even after being reported.

"Twitter claims to stop hate speech but they just don't do it in practice," Cooper said in the letter, co-written with the Fawcett Society. "Vile racist, misogynist and threatening abuse gets reported to them, but they are too slow to act so they just keep giving a platform to hatred and extremism. It's disgraceful and irresponsible."

Trending: Twitter 'giving a platform to hatred and extremism' by failing to remove offensive posts

The letter was co-signed by Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society and asked that Twitter provide details about its methodology and average time taken to look into reports and remove offensive tweets.

It also questions the company about steps being taken to speed up the process, the number of employees actively scouring the site for hateful content and its policies on suspending accounts and removing tweets.

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The Fawcett Society said Twitter is "failing women" by failing to quickly take down hateful and misogynistic posts. The letter pointed out 14 examples of racist, abusive and threatening tweets against MPs against shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, Labour MP Luciana Berger, anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller and late Labour MP Jo Cox, who was murdered by a far-right extremist last year.

Some of the offending tweets reported to Twitter included a vile message against Brendan Cox, the widower of Jo Cox, which claimed he was a "Muslim apologist" whose wife was "paid by the rape gangs in her constituency" who should "burn in hell", Huffington Post reports.

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"Twitter plays a really important role in breaking news, stimulating debate, raising public awareness of major events and allowing people simply to keep in touch with friends and family," Cooper said. "But that's why it's so important that this is a platform that isn't poisoned by abuse, violent threats and intimidation.

"Twitter need to get their act together," Cooper said. "Women are being routinely and regularly abused online with impunity for the abusers and that has to change."

The fierce criticism comes after the Crown Prosecution Service announced on Monday that online hate crime will be treated as seriously as face-to-face offences.

A Twitter spokesman said in a statement: "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 10 times the number of abusive accounts every day than the same time in 2016.

"We will continue to build on these efforts and meet the challenge head-on."

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