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Labour MP calls police after receiving rape threats on Facebook

A Labour MP has called the police after receiving rape threats from two separate online accounts.

Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, criticised Facebook for ruling the messages did not breach their community standards.

She later confirmed she had informed the police who said they were “optimistic they can trace these people”.

Speaking to the Blackpool Gazette, the 32-year-old said she flagged the posts after becoming frustrated overa lack of adequate measures to protect people on social media.

“I’m angry that it is considered OK by a minority of people,” she said. “You wouldn’t dream of saying that to someone in the street, yet it’s somehow OK to say it on social media.”

In a statement, Facebook told The Independent: “These posts, which violate our policies, have now been removed. We apologise for our mistake in not removing them when first reported to us and any distress caused.

“We have a comprehensive reporting system in place and our teams work around the clock to review content reported by our community but sometimes they do make mistakes.

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“We recently announced that we’re adding a further 3,000 people to our global team of reviewers to help us get better at responding to these reports as quickly and accurately as possible.

“We take this responsibility very seriously and will continue to work closely with safety experts including The Internet Watch Foundation to explore what more can be done to tackle this kind of behaviour on Facebook.”­

Ms Smith – who has been in office since 2015 – has nearly 10,000 followers on Facebook, and more than 27,000 on Twitter.

Speaking to the BBC in July, Ms Smith said most of the abuse she personally received came from the “hard right of politics”.

“The organised groups tend to be Britain First, the EDL, who are very threatening,” she said.

She also claimed comments made by Conservative Party candidates during the 2017 election had emboldened anonymous abusers in the general public. These included “the singling out of [Labour MP] Dianne Abbott” with attacks that “bordered on the racist”.

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“It almost gives people permission, who are racist online, to take that a step further,” she added.

Ms Smith’s case follows weeks after another Labour MP, Jess Phillips, claimed she received 600 rape and death threats in a single day in 2016.

In an interview with The Independent last month, Ms Phillips, who is chair of the women’s parliamentary Labour Party, suggested training could help women in public positions learn to deal with abuse directed towards them.

Specifically, she said there should be more information on how to report threats, what exactly is illegal, and what is the best way to fight back.

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