Analysis comment

Examples suggest BBC’s abuse ‘algorithm’ gives right-wing comments a free pass

‘Black Lives Matter’ ‘toxicity’ score ten times higher than racist dogwhistle in system that judged white MPs abused and ignores mass hate directed at Black and Asian MPs. See further examples below

As Skwawkbox covered yesterday, the BBC published analysis on the levels of ‘toxic’ Twitter messages received by MPs – in an article that completely excluded the Black and Asian women who receive the vast majority of social media and other abuse, including the most foul racism.

Instead, the BBC claimed that those receiving ‘toxic’ tweets were overwhelmingly white.

But access to the ‘algorithm’ the BBC used for its project covering a couple of weeks of Twitter traffic has revealed glaring apparent inconsistencies and illogicalities in what the system considers abusive. As Jeevan Rai pointed out, the innocent Black Lives Matter slogan was considered ten times ‘more likely to be toxic’ than the response often used in response by racists that ‘All lives matter’:

Novara Media’s Ash Sarkar pointed out that swearing in delight at a football goal is categorised as grossly offensive, while the racist ‘Go back to Africa’ was not:

In fact, Sarkar’s comparison does return results for both phrases, but the racist one only does so if the threshold for showing the result is lowered, as it is only assessed by the system as barely half as likely to be toxic as swearing about a goal:

Grossly antisemitic phrases were also regarded as inoffensive, according to left-wing Jewish group Jewdas:

And Skwawkbox’s own tests showed racist phrases regularly scored lower than innocuous ones. For example, ‘black empowerment’ was rated more toxic than ‘Keep Britain white’:

The anti-totalitarian ‘Kill the Bill’ was supposedly far more toxic than the anti-immigrant ‘Drown them in the channel’ or ”Britain is full’:

And ‘Starmer is a liar’ is treated as more toxic than ‘exterminate the vermin’:

In short, the system appears to perpetuate the same gross distortions perpetrated by the so-called ‘mainstream’ media over the past seven years and more, in which the right’s bleating about any kind of challenge is amplified by the media, while the foulest abuse toward the left and especially toward ethnic minority left-wingers is ignored entirely or else actively covered up.

This project apparently took the BBC eight months to carry out and led to the publishing of a result so diametrically opposed to obvious reality that it is laughable – or it would be, were it not such a serious matter to wipe out and ignore the horrific and sustained abuse suffered by MPs of colour and especially women like Diane Abbott, Dawn Butler, Claudia Webbe, Zarah Sultana and Apsana Begum.

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