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Police 'don't fully understand' the context MPs work in, report claims


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The report is also calling for legislation to be updated to make social media companies responsible for intimidatory content posted on sites.

Police 'don't fully understand' the context MPs work in, report claims

Police chiefs have been told to ensure officers are properly trained in social media by a parliamentary committee.

Meanwhile Facebook, Twitter and Google should be made legally liable for material posted on their sites which incite intimidation, a report published by the Committee on Standards in Public Life stated.

Chairman of the committee Lord Bew said in the document: “We propose legislative changes the government should bring forward on social media companies’ liability for illegal content online, and an electoral offence of intimidating parliamentary candidates and party campaigners.

“A significant proportion of candidates at the 2017 General Election experienced harassment, abuse and intimidation.

“There has been persistent, vile and shocking abuse, threatened violence including sexual violence and damage to property. It is clear that much of this behaviour is targeted at certain groups.

“The widespread use of social media platforms is the most significant factor driving the behaviour we are seeing.”

Police authorities have “shown inconsistency in supporting those facing itimidatory activities”, the report said.

In particular, the committee felt police had a lack of understanding of social media and did not fully appreciate the context MPs and candidates work in.

On the same day Met Police Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey hit out at HMICFRS saying inspectors did not properly understand the circumstances the Metropolitan Police Service works in.

“While we are mindful of pressures on police resources, better training and guidance is needed in this area,” the report stated.

"There is a lack of policing guidance on offences which constitute intimidation during election periods, and local police sometimes conflate personal threats and public order offences.

“General Election periods are a heightened environment in which candidates, in particular MPs standing for re-election, are more likely to experience intimidation.

“The rise of social media, in particular its transnational reach, has created significant challenges for policing."

“Parliamentary candidates have a broad range of expectations about what the police would be able to do in response to intimidatory behaviour they experience. 

"Greater clarity as to what behaviour is and is not illegal... would assist parliamentary candidates during a campaign and would result in more effective policing.”

But it added: “The law is a blunt instrument for dealing with much intimidatory behaviour. Policing and the law should not be seen as the primary means of addressing this issue. The primary focus must be on prevention.”

Social media companies were lambasted for being “too slow” in taking action on online intimidation and political parties were criticised for “failing to show leadership…and changing the tone of political debate.”

“In the fast-paced and rapidly developing world of social media, the companies themselves and government must both proactively address the issue of intimidation online.

“Not enough has been done.

“The committee is deeply concerned about the limited engagement of the social media companies in tackling these issues.”

Currently, social media companies do not have liability for the content on their sites, even where that content is illegal. 

This is largely due to the EU E-Commerce Directive (2000), which treats the social media companies as "hosts" of online content.

But the committee said the legislation is out of date and that Facebook, Twitter and Google are “not simply platforms…they play a role in shaping what users see.”

“We understand that they do not consider themselves as publishers, responsible for reviewing and editing everything that others post on their sites.

“But with developments in technology, the time has come for the companies to take more responsibility for illegal material that appears on their platforms.”

Social media has sparked a “step-change” in the abuse and intimidation MPs receive and “has shaped a culture in which the intimidation of candidates and others in public life has become widespread, immediate, and toxic,” according to the report.

The committee also called for an independent body to be set up during election campaigns as a social media “trusted flagger” to pick out illegal, hateful and intimidatory content.

Recommendations for the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) included working with CPS and the College of Policing to development guidance for parliamentary candidates on what to expect during a campaign.

The College of Policing should update the Authorised Professional Practice for elections to include intimidation offences and offences committed through social media.

All forces have “sufficient training” to effectively investigate crimes committed via social media within a year the NPCC should ensure local police have access to guidance “on the context in which MPs and Parliamentary candidates work.”

The Parliamentary Liaison and Investigation Team (PLaIT), specialist police team based in Parliament which was created to assess and address security threats to MPs, was commended for forging “very effective” working relationships with CPS and social media companies.

MPs were encouraged to make better use of the service and report intimidation incidents to help police “build a national picture of the threat to MPs.” 

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So the Police are not political and yet Parliament believes that we should do as our master's at Westminster say.  It is for Parliament to make legislation and for us to enforce within the legislation without any prejudice. One problem is that they have a habit of making laws which are unenforceable.  It appears that they want to make rules which do not apply to them.

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Seems to me it's very much the other way around: MPs have absolutely no idea or the context the police work in.

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Our MP agreed with me that PCC'S were a bad idea and would politicise the Police. He then went into Parliament and voted for them, so what would we expect.

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