More than 70,000 emails have been blocked at Birmingham City Council over the past three years - which could have included hundreds of threats which have never been reported, officials have admitted.

Following a Freedom of Information request from the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), the council has published a full list of statistics for the years 2016, 2017 and 2018.

In 2016 26,518 emails were 'quarantined' by the council's internal servers, with a list of 129 banned words used to filter out emails that could be deemed either offensive or spam.

In 2017 that number fell to 21,565, an average of just under 2,000 a month, while in 2018 it rose again to 22,984. The combined total for the past three years was 71,067.

 

Months with the highest number of quarantined emails in 2016 were February and August, each of which saw more than 3,000 emails blocked, while October was the month with the highest number in 2017, at 2,214.

In 2018 2,500 emails were quarantined in November, making this the month with the highest number of emails blocked.

Last month the full list of 129 blocked words was revealed by the LDRS , with words such as orgasm, vagina, slapper and nipple all included.

Cllr Nicky Brennan (Lab) has spoken in the past about the abuse she has received as a councillor, calling on providers such as Twitter and Google to help clamp down on the fake accounts that are often created just to send abuse.

And, speaking following publication of the statistics, she said that the number would be even higher if the list of banned words was updated to include more current insults.

"I was actually a little surprised it wasn’t more," she said.

Nicky Brennan, councillor for Sparkhill
 

"Because if you look at that list of words that they’ve got, a lot of those words are not really relevant for now. So if they went through it and added words that you’d think should be put on there, I think it would be a lot higher. I’m still surprised as I think the total is quite high. But given the context I thought it might have been higher.

"I still get a fair number of abusive emails that reach me. And we’re going to be doing some work to update the list. I think it would be good if none of these emails reached councillors or staff members, because when you get bombarded with horrible messages, even if you just get one, it affects your mental health."

Why the emails were 'quarantined' has not been disclosed by Birmingham City Council, though it did admit that quarantined emails are never read by a person unless the recipient specifically requests it.

This could mean that threatening, abusive and intimidating emails are not being reported to the relevant authorities, such as police, regardless of their content.

"It's awful that nothing is done about it," Cllr Brennan continued.

"When I had a threat come through, but it wasn’t quarantined, I had to report it to the police myself.

 

"I didn’t really get any support with it from anybody at the council. So I think somebody should be actually looking through what they are getting and reporting some of these things, and looking at trends of who’s sending them and who’s been targeted with them.

"Because there’s no point in having a list to quarantine things if there’s no consequences for the people who send the abusive emails in the first place.

"It’s ridiculous, because what if those emails need to be used as evidence? I mean we’ve had people actually go to prison now for abusing MPs through emails. So if we’re deleting them it kind of goes against the point of quarantining them.

"If somebody was purposefully harassing somebody constantly, and no consequences came from it, and they just carried on, wouldn’t it be better if they had some kind of police action against them? And then maybe that would stop people from doing it, if they knew there were consequences."