MPs are facing increased levels of abuse from online trolls using social media to deliver personal attacks, new figures reveal.
Sky News has been shown the results of a survey of parliamentary candidates from the 2017 general election, which reveal that 74% of those targeted during the campaign were most frequently harassed via platforms like Twitter.
Online abuse has become a regular part of Rupa Huq’s daily life as the Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, especially when she comments on controversial subjects such as abortion and Brexit.
“You often get it for speaking out and taking positions on things,” she told Sky News.
“So for being Remain in 2016, and for taking a position on something like abortion. Someone went to the lengths of sending a plastic foetus doll in plastic to my office.
“I’ve had it for speaking out on human rights issues with Israel and Palestine. One called me a ‘Talibanistic b****’.”
Ms Huq has also been insulted for her anti-Brexit stance, with one Twitter user calling her a “f****** Muslim fascist.”
She told Sky News the abuse and death threats have become par for the course as an MP, and that social media companies need to do more to tackle it.
The majority (88%) of those surveyed agreed Facebook and Twitter should be more active in removing posts.
“It is mostly on social media,” Ms Huq said.
“People who to your face wouldn’t say it, but as a keyboard warrior behind a phone or tablet, they can let rip.
“I think you get it more if you are a woman. I think you get it more if you are an ethnic woman. I think you just have to have an armadillo hide in this job.”
But it is not just online abuse that MPs have had to grow used to in recent years.
The research – carried out by Dr Sofia Collignon from the University of London – also reveals that one in 12 of 2017 candidates questioned had suffered physical attacks more than once, while 3% faced sexual harassment.
Hardly surprisingly, 60% said they felt fear, with women and Conservative members facing the most threats.
It is making MPs more cautious, especially after the murder of Jo Cox by a constituent two years ago.
Dr Collignon said: “We saw a decline in the number of candidates willing to provide their home address in 2017 compared to 2015.
“When we analyse why they are hesitant to do so, the majority answer is that they are concerned about their safety or their privacy.”
Andy Slaughter MP, whose constituency neighbours Ms Huq’s, has had to take action to improve security.
“We have had to put alarm systems into our offices,” the Hammersmith MP told Sky News.
“We have had to stop, which I’m really sad about, just in the last few weeks, drop-in sessions. Everything has to be done by appointment now.”