The outrage election


This report from the UK think tank Demos analyses data on abuse, insults and personal attacks during the 2019 general election campaign.

Working with BBC Click, CASM wanted to study how abuse, insults and personal attacks broke down over the 2019 general election campaign. Demos used Twitter’s public API to collect just over 5 million Tweets, sent between 7th and 29th November, which mention the username of 541 candidates who had been an MP in the recently dissolved parliament. This is a staggering number of messages – 222,000 tweets mentioning a candidate per day, or, on average, just over two and a half every single second. Under standard settings for the Twitter app, each one of these Tweets would have sent a little red notification to wherever that candidate, or their team, were monitoring their accounts. The researchers wanted to find out how much of this discussion involved personal attacks on candidates – tweets which attacked people, rather than policies or events. In doing so, the researchers also wanted to keep an open mind as to the types of abuse being flung at candidates; they wanted to capture not only the most extreme threats, but also to get a wide view of the negative messages which politicians regularly receive.

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