There have been big rises in the number of death threats reported to police and people charged for sending malicious messages, ITV's Tonight programme has found.
The programme, which airs on Thursday, looks into whether Britain is becoming angrier and more intolerant since the murder of MP Jo Cox.
Sunday marks three years since she was killed in Birstall, West Yorkshire. Figures obtained by Tonight using the Freedom of Information Act showed the number of ‘threats to kill’ reported to police in England and Wales has risen by 70% since 2016, the year Jo was killed.
The number of people arrested for sending malicious messages has increased by 38%. Twenty-five forces responded.
Jo Cox's sister Kim Leadbeater, who presents the programme, says: “Since Jo’s murder, it feels like things have actually got worse. The way we talk to each other and treat each other now seems so angry and toxic. Our politics feels bitterly divided.
“Brexiters are called fascists, Remainers are labelled traitors, and those who disagree with us are the enemy.”
Kim meets Countdown presenter Rachel Riley, who receives regular anti-Semitic abuse online.
Jo Cox was murdered in a politically-motivated attack just days before the EU Referendum in 2016.
In the programme, Kim returns to Jo’s place of work, Parliament, to meet MPs who often receive abuse in person and online.
Working with the University of Sheffield, Tonight analysed the responses to MPs’ posts on social media site Twitter in the month of May and found more than 40,000 tweets were abusive.
That’s almost four times higher than the same period last year.
Brexit proved to be the most aggravating topic, and women and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) MPs are more likely to receive abuse.
The sharp rise could be explained by rises in Twitter traffic, particularly during an election period.
The Police Federation told Tonight they need more officers and that their technology isn’t up to scratch to cope with rises in malicious messages and death threats.
In response, Security Minister Ben Wallace told Tonight: “They have got the technology. When I speak to the police, when there’s something like a threat to kill, they can find out who sends it. We are charging people a lot."
- ‘Angry Britain: Beyond Repair? – Tonight’ airs on Thursday at 7:30pm on ITV