Female SNP MPs targeted by online abuse, report finds

Female Nationalist politicians received some of the worst abuse on social media during the recent election campaign, new research has found.
Edinburgh South West SNP MP Joanna Cherry. Picture: ContributedEdinburgh South West SNP MP Joanna Cherry. Picture: Contributed
Edinburgh South West SNP MP Joanna Cherry. Picture: Contributed

Sexist, homophobic, sectarian and racist abuse was used to target Edinburgh South West MP Joanna Cherry and Tasmin Ahmed Sheikh, who lost her seat in Ochil and South Perthshire, in the build-up to the June vote.

But by far the worst abuse suffered among women MPs was Labour's Dianne Abbott who dealt with almost half (45.14 per cent) of abusive tweets in the six weeks leading up to the election, about ten times more than any other woman. Ms Abbot was forced to briefly withdraw from the campaign, citing health issues.

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Excluding Ms Abbott, SNP party members received the most abuse, the study by Amnesty Global Insights found.

Ms Cherry was on the wrong end of the second highest volume of insulting tweets among all women MPs.

The QC said she was "disappointed but not surprised" by the findings.

"I'm sick of the mysogynist, homophobic, sectarian anti-catholic & racist anti Scottish & anti Irish abuse I get but it won't shut me up." she added on social media.

Ms Ahmed Sheikh said she had suffered "horriific levels of abuse" stretching back to the 2015 election campaign. She was targeted by messages inciting sexual assault against her and also had her home address and postscode tweeted, which meant the police had to patrol her house.

"It hurts a lot," she told the researchers.

"It really, really hurts a lot. It’s personal. People are criticizing you, where you come from, your parents, what you believe in, the religion which you believe in, and for being a woman, in which you don’t have a choice… so that is really hard to deal with.”

The report analysed more than 900,000 tweets in the six months prior to the election this year, using the social listening tool Crimson Hexagon and estimated that a total of 37,364 abusive tweets were issued.