herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Online abuse isn't a niche problem, we must tackle keyboard warriors

Cllr Laura McGonigle
Cllr Laura McGonigle

If brevity is the soul of wit, the stingy character limit on Twitter would seem to mean that brevity is also the soul of outrageous and libellous online abuse. Especially for public figures.

No surprise then that this week TD Pat Rabbitte called for the "selective targeting of public figures" to stop. He said the abuse certain politicians have been facing is "unacceptable".

Water charges seem to be the touch paper that's lit a recent bonfire of online abuse.

Fine Gael councillor Laura McGonigle faced death threats and vile and abusive language (including a call for her to be drowned in a bath of water) when she make a water charges comment. She also faced calls to be burned, comments on her appearance and had her mobile phone number published online.

trolls

There's no point in engaging with abusers like these. All you do is get involved in some sort of Twitter cage-fighting. Starving them is the way to go.

Stand up to the keyboard warriors, Twitter trolls and cyber stalkers by not engaging with them.

Sure, politics is public and all actions of politicians are subject to scrutiny - and so they should be.

But there's a difference between holding someone to account and cyberbullying. It's a particular problem for women.

A 2013 Pew Research survey revealed that 23pc of people aged 18 to 29 reported being stalked or harassed online - 70pc of these cases involved female victims.

Online harassment isn't freedom of speech and the abuse isn't a niche issue. It's behaviour that has real social, professional, personal and economic costs.

Surely we need the same sort of standards in online engagement as we demand from our politicians in, for example, the Dail chamber?

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