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Politicians in Scotland report hundreds of criminal social media comments

The interior of Holyrood the Scottish parliament

Data from a new pilot programme in Scotland has revealed the level of abuse politicians in the country receive from the public. The data shows that over 8,000 comments received by MSPs were deemed abusive, and 461 of those were determined to have broken the law.

While some might brush this off as to be expected, it’s important to point out that the programme was originally established in response to the murder of English MP Sir David Amess, who was killed in his constituency during a meeting with locals. He was fatally stabbed by Ali Harbi Ali, an Islamic extremist who sympathised with Islamic State.

38 MSPs took part in the programme, and they received about 12 abusive messages each during the trial period. The vast majority of the threatening and abusive messages were aimed at the ruling Scottish National Party.

Many of the messages were categorised as general abuse, but 452 of them, the second largest category, were of racial or religious nature. Commenting on the findings, SNP MSP Rona Mackay said the study shows how prevalent this type of abuse is and that:

“Nobody should need to put up with any form of abuse whilst doing their job. Such abuse can have a devastating impact on people's lives and is completely unacceptable.”

MSPs from other parties also expressed shock at the findings, with one saying abuse had impacted her work. As a result of this trial, the Scottish Parliament has decided to make the trial permanent and will recruit another security analyst to help accommodate up to 80 MSPs.

With the introduction of social media over the last 25 years, it has become increasingly easy for people to contact politicians directly. The screen between the public and the politicians also gives people a false sense of anonymity to speak their minds, whereas, in the past, they would have had to air their grievances face to face and would more likely be too ashamed to say the things they say online.

While this trial was only focused on Scotland, you can guarantee this level of abuse is also being directed against politicians in other states.

Source: BBC News | Image via Depositphotos.com

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