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It’s said that the shape of the House of Commons, which pits government and opposition against each other like two rival sports teams, causes our politicians to be so adversarial. The front benches are famously distanced “two sword lengths” apart specifically to prevent bladed combat.

Parliament has an official speaker to order debate, even if they are occasionally outwitted by our more formidable parliamentarians. The rest of us must rely on each other to keep public debate in check.

Facebook whistleblower Frances Heughan recently alleged that the social network uses algorithms to antagonise its users and “deliberately foster discord” on its platforms. That’s where its similarities with parliament end (aside from both having employed Nick Clegg). It’s arguably a dangerous accusation to make of a platform with nearly three billion users and no speaker to moderate debate – it would be impossible for Facebook’s new Oversight Board to actively monitor all of its interactions.

This is nothing new. Politics, current affairs and panel shows have been setting people against one another for years.

The most common platform for public debate is now the internet.  If Facebook really is encouraging people to argue with one another, it’s probably not surprising that debates are getting out of hand, and personal abuse is rising.

It’s not exactly in the interests of platform owners to bring down the heat on screens when the more time spent on platforms interacting with content correlates with increased advertising revenues.

The internet is, and can be, a great platform for connecting people and fostering valuable discussion between those who would not otherwise exchange views.

But has the spread of online abuse going seemingly unchecked harmed the quality of our public debate?

Abuse reduces the quality of debate, creating echo chambers and silencing those who might otherwise make excellent contributions for fear of being attacked.

There may be more that social media platforms can do, but it’s also down to us as individuals.  We must create a space both on and offline where we can have free and frank discussion of societies’ most important and contentious issues, free from abuse.  We could even try to inject some good old-fashioned nuance back into our national conversations.

Hugh Deery is a senior account executive at Camargue