Labor MP Diane Abbott has spoken out against police and social media companies after figures published in The Mirror revealed a sickening increase in allegations of racist abuse.
Forces across England and Wales found reports of racism on social media soared 144% in just two years – while only a small number resulted in arrests or charges.
Ms Abbott, who has represented Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987, told the Mirror she reported abuse against her to police but said nothing was being done.
“From my experience, I have no confidence that people will face action for racist abuse online,” she said.
The former shadow home secretary, the first black woman to be elected to parliament, said she was inundated with vile messages, taking a heavy toll on herself and her staff.
“For someone like me who is a woman of color in the public eye, the number of abuse has increased year on year,” Ms. Abbot said.
“This is not a victimless crime, it is incredibly heartbreaking and depressing. I have young people who come to work as interns and juniors and that takes them away from the idea of being a councilor or deputy.
Data released under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that 23 police forces in England and Wales received 1,394 allegations of racism linked to social media last year.
This is an increase of 144% compared to the 572 reports sent to the same forces in 2018, while in 2019, they received 799, bringing the number in three years to 2,765.
But many have revealed that the number of arrests and charges is very low.
Figures released by 10 forces – the Met, Northumbria, Staffordshire, Surrey, Humberside, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Leicestershire, Cambridgeshire and Cleveland – show they have received a total of 1,419 allegations of racism on social media in three years.
But alone, they’ve brought just 41 charges in connection with those complaints – less than three percent.
Between 2018 and 2020, the Met Police, the UK’s largest force, received 208 complaints of alleged racism on social media, but only two people were charged
“What this shows is that they are not taking this problem seriously,” Ms Abbott said.
“My staff report the most serious cases to the police, but they never get a response. It seems that for the police this is not considered a serious problem.
In the aftermath of the Euro 2020 final, five arrests were made after Three Lions heroes Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were targeted by racists online.
Ms Abbott said: “What happened with Euro 2020 was quite predictable, Facebook has become a safe space for this kind of abuse.
“It’s like social media companies and the police don’t take the effect this has on people seriously.”
Facebook says it is proactive on the issue, removing more than 33 million hate speech content, 93% before it is reported, and says incidents have declined slightly in the first three months of the year. year.
He says he responds to “valid legal requests for information” from the police and works with police chiefs to improve cooperation.
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A spokesperson said: “No one should have to face racist abuse anywhere, and we don’t want it on Facebook or Instagram. We share the goal of holding people who share this content to account and we do so by taking action on content and accounts that break our rules and by working with the police.
“We respond as quickly as possible to requests for valid legal information and are convinced that the information we provide is useful for police investigations.
“We also encourage people to turn on hidden words, a tool that means no one should see abuse in their comments or private messages. Nothing will solve this challenge overnight, but we are committed to protecting our community from abuse.
Ms Abbott said networks need to collect data from people who use their platforms to identify users.
“There is complete anonymity and there is abuse,” she said.
“Social media companies must stop granting anonymity. You can post anonymously, but social media companies should keep your contact details. “
Old premier league footballer Marvin Sordell, whose decision to quit the game at just 28 was partly motivated by the abuse he suffered, said: “It’s pretty clear to see that people can make any comments they want because they know the likelihood of them being a) found and b) charged is very rare.”
Police chiefs say they are embarrassed by companies failing to provide crucial details that can help those who identify racists.
The National Council of Police Chiefs said the work boiled down to cracking down on hate online, but said the networks’ cooperation was essential.
A spokesperson said: “Anonymous accounts that cannot be traced by traditional investigative methods give social media companies a greater responsibility for passing the IP address on to those who post illegal and harmful content.
“This would allow authorities to search for subscriber information, but most platforms are only prepared to do so by court order, which is not possible in many host states.”
He said the forces are “fully investigating” the complaints.
In a statement, Met Police said, “The Met does not tolerate any form of discrimination and is committed to prosecuting any offender when there is evidence that meets the evidentiary threshold. Investigating crimes committed online can be difficult due to the ease with which relative anonymity can be guaranteed.
“We often need the cooperation of social media and other platform providers to successfully prosecute these suspects.”
The force said race-aggravated hate crimes had increased online and offline during the pandemic.
He continued, “When an allegation of a hate crime is made to the police, we will launch a proportionate investigation. In some cases, there may be a lack of evidence to support a prosecution and a case will be closed when all investigative possibilities have been exhausted. “
A Twitter The spokesperson said the company “does not condone abuse or harassment of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, caste, disability or disease “.
The social media giant says it is removing content that breaks its rules, including “dehumanizing language”, “hateful images and emojis.”
Twitter has rules in place to deal with threats of violence, abuse and harassment and has emphasized that it takes action when it finds accounts that violate them.
However, the spokesperson added that technology alone is not enough to solve the problem. They therefore work with other organizations to combat racism and meet regularly with the Met police.
Anyone wishing to report violations can do so here https://help.twitter.com/en/forms/law-enforcement