New research has laid bare the shocking scale of online abuse suffered by councillors – with close to one in ten local representatives even receiving death threats.
The founders of North East-based democracy project Rate Your Leader, which allows electors and the elected to safely interact online using an abuse-proof app have responded to the figures by slamming “unaccountable” social media giants for “sitting on their hands while elected representatives live in fear”
The recently-published results of the Civility of Politics survey conducted by the Local Government Chronicle reveal that:
- 72% of councillors have received personal insults on social media
- 7% have received online death threats
- 71% think things have got worse in the past three years.
- 62% of councillors think the abuse deters people from standing for office.
A former councillor close to the Rate Your Leader project, who asked to remain anonymous after themselves receiving a death threat while serving their community, admitted:
“You try to laugh it off, at least with your family but knowing that politicians have been killed in this country keeps you up at night and makes you ask yourself if the pride of serving the place you love is worth the pain and worry this abuse inflicts on you and your family”.
Almost two-thirds of those surveyed believe social media is to blame for the rising tide of harassment experienced by local politicians.
Joel Poopola, is founder of the Tyne and Wear based 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.
The Sunderland-based tech entrpreneur said:
“In the age of digital democracy voters expect a personalised, immediate service from their representatives – and social media gives the perfect platform for politicians to do that. But the social media giants simply aren’t’ doing enough to keep councillors safe and protect their mental health.
“Rate Your Leader’s abuse-proof democratic interaction app was designed in response to unaccountable corporations worrying willingness to keep sitting on their hands while elected representatives live in fear.
“Regardless of personal politics every councillor is motivated by a pure desire to improve their community, and they deserve far better than having to put up with sometimes constant harassment and intimidation.
“Tech companies reluctance to meaningfully self-monitor means that councillors and the people who elect them should look elsewhere to interact safely, respectfully and productively with each other.”
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.