AAAI Publications, Twelfth International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media

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Twits, Twats and Twaddle: Trends in Online Abuse towards UK Politicians
Genevieve Gorrell, Mark A Greenwood, Ian Roberts, Diana Maynard, Kalina Bontcheva

Last modified: 2018-06-15


Concerns have reached the mainstream about how social media are affecting political outcomes. One trajectory for this is the exposure of politicians to online abuse. In this paper we use 1.4 million tweets from the months before the 2015 and 2017 UK general elections to explore the abuse directed at politicians. Results show that abuse increased substantially in 2017 compared with 2015. Abusive tweets show a strong relationship with total tweets received, indicating for the most part impersonality, but a second pathway targets less prominent individuals, suggesting different kinds of abuse. Accounts that send abuse are more likely to be throwaway. Economy and immigration were major foci of abusive tweets in 2015, whereas terrorism came to the fore in 2017.


social media analysis; twitter; politics; online abuse

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