09 Aug 2022

Politicians received over 38,000 Twitter threats with female councillors and senators targeted

Politicians receive over 38,000 Twitter threats with female councillors and senators targeted

Over 38,000 threats toward politicians were identified in tweets, a new study has found.

There were also 15,842 sexually explicit comments and 77,040 insults. "Toxicity” was identified in 72,552 tweets and “severe toxicity” was found in 26,866 comments.

The research by Dr Ian Richardson found there was no gender divide in the amount of abuse aimed TDs.

There was a significantly higher level of abusive messages focused at female councillors and senators than at their male counterparts.

"When accounting for the number of followers a politician has, female Local Councillors received 8 times as many abusive tweets per followers compared to their male counterparts, while female Senators received 3 times as many abusive tweets per followers than their male counterparts," the report finds

In his conclusion, Dr Richardson says: "the trend which is of most concern to achieving a truly representative democracy is the level of abuse women in the traditional paths to becoming legislators (local councils and the Seanad) receive compared to men. Considering the number of newspaper articles published regarding abuse towards politicians on social media, it is not a stretch to suggest that this may be a barrier to women entering politics".

Male politicians serving in Government were found to receive far more abuse on Twitter than men in opposition parties.

Dr Richardson’s research was conducted using publicly available artificial intelligence software combined with computer programming code he wrote himself to determine the level of abuse politicians encountered on Twitter.

His research found the “most prolific abusive accounts”, were affiliated with Sinn Féin, Fine Gael and Independents respectively.

“Each community had a handful of key accounts which bridged the majority of the other accounts, however, the Sinn Féin community had a large proportion of smaller accounts following the key accounts,” Dr Richardson said.

"While there was a distinct character of each community based on their party affiliation, who they directed their abuse towards was similar, with each community directing the majority of their abuse towards Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians," Dr Richardson notes in his conclusion. 

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