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A LABOUR MP revealed today that she had been trolled online by a convicted sex offender and said she had received a “significant volume” of online abuse since becoming a politician.
Shadow equalities and women’s minister Charlotte Nichols was speaking at a fringe event today at the TUC women’s conference, which called for delegates to pass a motion to end gender-based violence, saying it was a “priority issue” for the movement.
Delegates heard on the second day of the virtual conference that gender-based violence had escalated during the Covid-19 pandemic, including domestic abuse and harassment online.
“Unfortunately the internet has now become just another weapon in an already oversized arsenal for perpetrators to wield,” train union Aslef’s Debbie Reay told delegates.
Ms Nichols told the meeting that online abuse was “one of the key barrier to the involvement in public life of a more diverse range of people.”
She said: “I found out that one of my more committed trolls is a convicted sex offender which … I think it actually goes to the crux of the issue of online abuse because there’s this tendency to act as though what happens in the online sphere isn’t real life and doesn’t have real-life consequences or risks or harms.”
Communications officer Aliya Bakheit from Glitch, a group set up to tackle online abuse, said that the problem had increased since the pandemic.
“How we behave in our online spaces must reflect how the way we behave offline,” she said. “And we can’t really separate the two, particularly now in Covid-19 time. We are all stuck at home and we’re all online.”
Ms Bakheit said that figures collected by the group last year found that one in two women and non-binary people had been subjected to online abuse since the pandemic. Of those who had faced abuse before the crisis, one in three said that it had worsened.
Speaking earlier, NUJ national executive member Natasha Hirst said that online abuse was silencing women journalists.
“Online abuse of journalists is highly gendered and is a form of discrimination and violence against women,” she said. “It’s intersectional too, with black women journalists being especially targeted.”
Conference passed an emergency NUJ motion on the “spiralling abuse” of women journalists, with the TUC women’s committee agreeing to lobby greater sanctions against the perpetrators of abuse.
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