Twitter branded ‘toxic’ amid abuse aimed at man in Alastair Stewart row

Costa Book of The Year Awards 2017 - London

Twitter is "not doing enough" to address abuse, it has been claimed – as it emerged the man at the centre of the Alastair Stewart row has been inundated with hate tweets.

Martin Shapland's Twitter exchange with the veteran broadcaster is thought to have led to his departure from ITN, in which he quoted a Shakespeare passage including the phrase "angry ape".

The quote, which was taken from the play Measure For Measure, was sent during a disagreement on January 13.

Breaking his silence on the matter, Mr Shapland said on Twitter that he had been "on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse".

One tweet threatened Mr Shapland to "be looking over your shoulder for the rest of your life", which has remained on the platform since 7am on Thursday, while other tweets contain racist insults.

The Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) organisation described the tweets as "absolutely disgusting" and said Twitter has become a "toxic place".

"Twitter aren't doing enough to fix it," Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the CCDH, told the PA news agency.

"We would expect Twitter to take those tweets down as quickly as possible, and to take decisive action against the people that tweeted them in the first place, which means banning them.

"Social media and Twitter has become a toxic place for people to interact with each other, because for too long Twitter have tolerated this kind of identity-based hate and that's normalising it throughout our society and has led to an increase in hate crimes.

"That's why we went there to encourage them to actually follow through and demonstrate the will to act on their existing policies, not to deflect people by saying this is about algorithms, artificial intelligence, or new policies – we want them to enforce their existing policies and ban the people that have been abusing Mr Shapland."

The anti-hate group said it met with Twitter this week to discuss Katie Hopkins's account, which appears to have led to the far-right commentator being temporarily suspended from the service for breaching its hateful conduct policy.

Twitter's policy states that users must "not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease".

"We prohibit content that makes violent threats against an identifiable target. Violent threats are declarative statements of intent to inflict injuries that would result in serious and lasting bodily harm, where an individual could die or be significantly injured, eg: 'I will kill you'," its hateful conduct policy continues.

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Newsreader Alastair Stewart and Holby City actress Tina Hobley with Dana the Lemur during a photocall for the launch of the 'Calling All Toddlers 2' charity children's video at London Zoo in Regent's Park. *... 5 from every sale will be shared between the NSPCC and NCH.
Newsreaders Alastair Stewart and Katie Derham arrive.
TV presenter Alastair Stewart arriving at Basingstoke magistrates to face a drink-driving charge. Stewart, 50, who is the presenter of the ITV show Police, Camera, Action, was arrested June 19 at his home in Bramdean, near Winchester, Hants. * after his Mercedes car collided with a hedge.
Alastair Stewart and daughter his Clementine attend Capital Rocks, in aid of Help a London Child, at Battersea Evolution in Battersea Park, London.
PHOTO ONLY TO BE USED TO ILLUSTRATE MEMORIAL BURNET - NO ARCHIVING PERMITTED Handout photo issued by ITN of Sir David Nicholas (former CEO of ITN), Julie Etchingham and Alastair Stewart attending a service of thanksgiving celebrating the life of former ITN presenter Sir Alastair Burnet at St-Martins-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London.
PHOTO ONLY TO BE USED TO ILLUSTRATE MEMORIAL BURNET - NO ARCHIVING PERMITTED Handout photo issued by ITN of ITV News presenter Alastair Stewart attending a service of thanksgiving celebrating the life of former ITN presenter Sir Alastair Burnet at St-Martins-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London.
Alastair Stewart arriving for the first night performance of Monty Python Show Live at the O2 Arena, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday July 1, 2014. See PA story SHOWBIZ Python. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire
John Whittingdale (left) and Alastair Stewart during the 40th Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
Lucrezia Millarini and Alastair Stewart of ITV news at the launch of this year's Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race in Westminster, London.
Tonia Antoniazzi MP (left), Lucrezia Millarini (centre) and Alastair Stewart (right) of ITV news with Grace and Jacob from St Matthew's Primary School in Westminster at the launch of this year's Rehab Parliamentary Pancake Race in Westminster, London.
Alastair Stewart is the official starter at during the annual Parliamentary Pancake Race, featuring teams of MPs, Lords and political journalists in aid of the Rehab disability charity, at Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster, London.
Fern Britton and Alastair Stewart attending the Costa Book of The Year Awards 2017 Photocall at Quaglino's in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday January 30, 2018. Photo credit should read: Ian West/PA Wire
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"We prohibit content that wishes, hopes, promotes, or expresses a desire for death, serious and lasting bodily harm, or serious disease against an entire protected category and/or individuals who may be members of that category."

Mr Stewart – whose career in front of the camera spans 40 years – said in a statement to the PA news agency that he made a "misjudgment which I regret".

ITN said that the journalist's use of social media "breached" its editorial guidelines, but did not elaborate about the nature of Mr Stewart's actions.

In October, Twitter said abusive tweets are now spotted by artificial intelligence (AI) more often than by humans.

The social media giant said more than 50% of the tweets it had taken action on in the first half of 2019 had been flagged by its detection technology rather than human reviewers.

Twitter has not responded to requests for comment.

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