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Jo Cox’s murder was followed by 50,000 tweets celebrating her death

More than 50,000 abusive and offensive tweets were sent celebrating Labour MP Jo Cox’s murder and lauding her killer, Thomas Mair, as a “hero” or “patriot” in the month following her death, prompting calls for the government to do more to tackle hate speech online.

According to researchers on the social media site, the tweets were sent from at least 25,000 individuals and have been interpreted by hate crime campaigners as a sign of an emboldened extreme rightwing support base.

On Wednesday, Mair, a white supremacist who resented immigration, was sentenced to prison for the rest of his life for the murder of Cox on 16 June during the lead-up to the EU referendum.

Academics examined more than 53,000 tweets sent over the month after the MP’s murder and found that among the top 20 words used to describe Mair and Jo Cox were the terms “hero”, “patriot”, “white power”, “rapists” and “traitor”.

The findings come ahead of a government report into integration that claims the concept has broadly failed in the UK and that extremists from both the far right and Islamists have been allowed to gain too much traction.

Jo Cox: ‘The sort of person you’d like to spend your life with’

Louise Casey’s review into integration uncovered myriad problems including segregated schooling, and found many Muslim women were disenfranchised, with a majority unable to find work, a situation that may deteriorate as Britain leaves the EU.

A source close to the review, due to be unveiled next month, said: “Casey’s not just going to be critical of integration policy – she doesn’t even feel that there is an integration policy. The vacuum that central government has not properly filled has been filled by others.“

The report into cyber hate speech linked to the murder of Cox, authored by Imran Awan of Birmingham City University, and Irene Zempi of Nottingham Trent University, to be published on Monday, uncovered several key themes.

Nick Lowles, chief executive of anti-fascist organisation Hope Not Hate, which backed the report, said: “Mair acted alone but he was inspired by over 30 years of reading Nazi propaganda. Clearly there were those on social media and other digital platforms who sought to exploit and profit from his disgusting actions, and the tensions also arising from the referendum process, to spread their vile beliefs.”

According to the report’s authors, online hate speech and offences committed on the street were linked with online perpetrators emboldened by “trigger” events like the EU referendum.

The report argues that social media companies must sign up to a duty of care and conduct, as well as recommending the creation of an archive of online hate incidents. It also calls for more social media training to be carried out in schools and recommends improved responses to online hate from social media companies.

Lowles added: “It is time for the authorities to take greater note of these ideologues of hate, and time too for social media companies – and Twitter in particular – to up their game when it comes to providing a safe platform for expression. Free speech does not equal hate speech, which can have very real consequences and impact in communities in the UK.”

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