Digital neighbourhood watch?

I was pleased to hear that there is going to be a national push to tackle online abuse and particularly that which is focused on women. The cross-party campaign follows some interesting research that showed in a three week period 6,500 individuals were targeted by 10,000 ‘aggressive and misogynistic tweets’. The campaign wants to create a national discussion about the issue and will including online public consultation about what is seen as a growing problem.

The same norms and acceptable behaviour that we have within our physical communities should exist online. Few people would feel comfortable in shouting abuse at someone in the street or running after someone and hounding them with vile language. So it absolutely must not be accepted behaviour for people using social media. No-one should feel hounded from their community because of antisocial behaviour and no-one should be forced off social media because of attacks.

In some cases those responsible for the abuse do it through anonymous accounts. This makes tackling it even more problematic but we know there is much more that can be done. The social media and digital companies can do more to encourage acceptable behaviour and deal with abuse and trolling that happens. But there is something more fundamental that needs to take place.

We all have to make sure that online abuse is not acceptable. It means when we are using social media or digital sites we have to treat everyone with respect but more than that it means we should challenge those who are abusive. It doesn’t have to be abuse directed at us but if we see it happening we should intervene. We know that people are happy to share information about other forms of crime and to highlight to authorities when they see something happening. It is this sentiment and behaviour that needs to be extended. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mind a discussion or some disagreement but it should always be done with respect.

It is time for us all to stand up and make sure we tackle online abuse.

The Reclaim the Internet campaign consultation can be found here


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