The makers of a democracy app have called for politicians to break up big tech companies if they fail to take action to prevent the online abuse of politicians.
The makers of abuse-proof digital democracy tool Rate Your Leader believe such action is necessary in response to “an online environment so toxic it poisons our political process”.
The call comes as MPs spoke publically about the abuse they have endured from members of the public – including being sent pictures of decapitated bodies.
A survey carried out by the BBC saw 139 MPs reporting that either they or their staff had faced abuse in the past year.
More than 60% of these incidents led to contact with the police.
Separate analysis into online abuse of MPs carried out at the University of Sheffield found:
- Labour MP David Lammy has received the most abuse of any MP on Twitter in 2019.
- Sexist abuse to be the most widespread form of abuse – even though male MPs receive significantly more abuse than female MPs.
- Conservative MPs receiving significantly more abuse than Labour MPs.
Joel Popoola, founder of the Democracy project Rate Your Leader, whose free app allows voters to communicate with their elected representatives at the touch of a button in a way which makes abuse impossible, responded to the reports.
“Politicians have proven that they are willing to use competition laws to stand up to online businesses who are price-fixing Justin Bieber posters, so why are they not prepared to stand up to businesses which are being used to physically threaten them and their families?
“Throughout history politicians have stepped in when companies with a monopoly or near monopoly in the market where abusing their position or creating social damage, to the extent of breaking them up.
“The UK’s three most popular social media platforms are owned by the same people. We’re fast-approaching the point where this can no longer be ruled out for some social media companies, who are too powerful and too alarmingly ambivalent about the harm they are enabling.
“Our democracy cannot function in an online environment so toxic, it poisons our political process. At Rate Your Leader we’ve installed systems which make it impossible to be abusive to politicians, so why can’t the big boys?
“Of course this level of hostility toward our political process goes beyond technology, but politicians either need to vote with their feet and move over to platforms who are willing the take the steps necessary to keep them and their electors safe, or consider radical action to safeguard our democracy”.
The Rate Your Leader app has a five star rating on the Google market, with one reviewer writing “This is the new level of politics…better communication of leaders with the electorates and accountability”.
An ever-increasing number of MPs, councillors, MEPs and Police & Crime Commissioners have already taken advantage of the free democracy app to stay in touch with the people who elect them and to get their message out to confirmed voters in their constituencies, helping them truly understand what matters most to the people who elect them.
Notes to editors:
In 2016, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) fined an online seller over £160,000 for breaking competition law after discovering that 2 online sellers of posters of Justin Bieber and One Direction had participated in an illegal price-fixing cartel. More details can be found here.