22 AUGUST 2017

  • Research shows multiple cases of violent threats, misogynist and racist abuse not tackled
  • Reclaim the Internet and Fawcett Society call for action within 24 hours of reporting

Twitter is doing too little, too slowly to combat online threats, racist and misogynist abuse, according to research carried out by the Fawcett Society and Reclaim the Internet, a cross-party campaign founded by Yvette Cooper MP.

Numerous examples of abuse, threats, and hate speech on the platform were identified and reported early last week – by the morning of the 21st August they were still up on the platform, despite the fact that they clearly violate Twitter's own community standards that do not allow direct or indirect threats or can be categorised as harassment or hateful content. No response has been sent to the people who reported them, and no action had been taken against the users who posted them*.

Taken alongside the platform’s failure to act against white supremacists organizing the Charlottesville rally, to tackle coordinated ‘dogpiling’ such as that experienced by Mary Beard earlier this month, and to remove anti-Semitic abuse of Luciana Berger MP, there is a clear picture of Twitter not acting quickly or strongly enough.

Following the research released today, and coming as the Crown Prosecution Service announces plans to treat online hate crime as seriously as offences carried out face to face, Yvette Cooper and Fawcett CEO, Sam Smethers, have sent a letter calling for Twitter to outline their plans to take action within 24 hours when abuse is reported.

Twitter has recently reported that it is taking action against 10 times more abusive accounts than this time last year. However, the letter makes clear they do not believe Twitter is acting quickly enough.

The letter asks Twitter six key questions to move on the discussion about how the platform can deal with abuse:

  • What is the average time taken to investigate a report and take down tweets?
  • Do you accept that the examples shown violate Twitter’s community standards and should be removed? If so, why have they not been removed, and, if not, how do you justify giving them a platform?
  • What action is being taken to speed up the process of removals? When do you anticipate being able to act on a user report within 24 hours?
  • How many staff do you have actively looking for this kind of abusive content and taking the necessary action?
  • What progress has been made to prevent people becoming victims of ‘dog-piling’?
  • Will you provide more detail on your policy for removal of tweets or suspension of accounts, so we can more fully understand why the Unite The Right posts were not removed.

Yvette Cooper MP, founder of Reclaim the Internet, said:

"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. But that’s why it’s so important that this is a platform that isn't poisoned by abuse, violent threats and intimidation.
“Twitter claims to stop hate speech but they just don't do it in practice. 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.

“Twitter need to get their act together. Abusive content needs to be removed far more quickly and the company should be doing more to respond immediately to complaints and to proactively identify content that contravenes their community standards.”

Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, said:

“Twitter is failing women because they are failing to respond and act when content on their platform clearly contravenes their own terms of use. Women are being routinely and regularly abused online with impunity for the abusers and that has to change.

“Misogyny is not currently recognized as a hate crime, so the CPS action announced today does not address the widespread misogynistic abuse that women have to put up with every day. It is time that we recognized that misogyny is hate crime.”

Download the press release here

Read more about our campaign with Reclaim the Internet, and steps you can take to fight online harassment.

Notes: * Fawcett and Reclaim the Internet identified examples of abusive, threatening, or hate-speech content on Twitter through a few hours of searching the platform and accounts of public figures. These tweets were reported as abusive or harmful from anonymous accounts set up for the purpose, and then re-checked today – no action had been taken to delete the tweet or suspend the user. 

For more information, infographics or interviews contact Fresh communication:

Abby Richardson – [email protected] / 07876 378 733

Nathalie Golden – [email protected] / 07769 66 66 27