Abbott: Social Networking Sites ‘Shirking’ Responsibilities

The Shadow Home Secretary says online platforms are not doing enough to ban racist content

SPEAKING OUT: Diane Abbott

DIANE ABBOTT has called out social networking companies for “shirking their responsibilities” when it comes to removing racist content, after it was discovered that there was numerous abusive content on Twitter up to five years after being posted.

Abbott, who has facised consistent racial abuse on the platform said: “They could act quicker to block and remove material and ban the abusers. They clearly shift into gear faster when it is issues of commercial copyright.”

Her comments come after the Press Association discovered dozens of racially abusive tweets targeting football players such as Raheem Sterling.

Some of the posts found this week, include on about Arsenal striker Danny Welbeck, describing him as a “f****** cotton picking n*****”, while another aimed at England’s Sterling during Euro 2016 described him as “just a typical c**n all pace no brain”.

Abbott added that the Government has been “extremely slow to act” on the issue of online abuse.

“We will have to wait and see if their latest plans mean they really have abandoned their cosy relationship with the internet giants,” she said.

“Labour will be pressing for tough measures and real sanctions on any failure to act, and is committed to taking effective measures in office.”

Since Press Association brought these tweets to light, the platform has since deleted them.

The discovery of the racist tweets also comes after the Government issued a white paper on online harms.

At the launch, Jeremy Wright discussed the powerful force of the internet to spread opportunity and knowledge, but to also “promote promote terrorism, undermine civil discourse, spread disinformation, and abuse or bully.

“For the most vulnerable in our society, the effects are more acute and sometimes they are tragic. And the truth is that the more we do online, the less acceptable it is that behaviour which would be controlled in any other environment is not controlled online,” he said.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We cannot allow the leaders of some of the tech companies to simply look the other way and deny their share of responsibility even as content on their platforms incites criminality, abuse and even murder.”

Speaking on Abbott’s comments, a Twitter spokesman said to BT: “At Twitter, our primary objective is to serve and improve the health of the public conversation.

“This means surfacing more quality, credible content, building new policies and safety tools, and tackling issues such as abuse which detract from the health of the public conversation.”

The company said it has “introduced over 70 changes to make the service safer, including investment in better machine learning technology to help us proactively limit the spread of abusive content”.

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