Politicians call for tougher action against online trolls

Coun Jayne Dunn
Coun Jayne Dunn
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A female Sheffield councillor who spoke out against online abuse has once again been targeted by vile insults.

Earlier this month, Coun Jayne Dunn revealed her terror after being targeted by different men, both online and in person. She feared she would be raped after one anonymous man abused her online then broke into her property.

But she now has suffered more horrendous personal abuse, this time on You Tube. In the latest abuse, she is called an “ugly, ducked faced cretin” who is “too busy troweling make-up into the troughs and valleys of her shrivelled-up face”. A council officer is also victim to the vindictive abuser.

The latest attacks come in the same week that London Mayor Sadiq Khan says women are being deterred from entering politics because of online abuse.

Coun Dunn told The Star: “People should be judged on their politics not their appearance but online abuse always becomes very personal. Sheffield is a safe city but we can’t make the internet safe. Social media is a nasty place.

“People think oh, it’s only online, it’s not as sinister as writing it in a letter or making a phone call but it is just as bad. We have to get control over this.”

After speaking out to The Star, she says she feels empowered and now wants to help more victims of social media abuse.

“Since I talked about it in The Star so many people spoke to me and said they wouldn’t want to be in the public eye because of it. I felt very exposed and vulnerable for 48 hours afterwards but now I feel empowered.

“People are talking about it more now and I had so many messages from people saying it had also happened to them.

“I want Twitter and Facebook to regulate better but we all have to say this is unacceptable. As a society we have to challenge our friends and take some of the responsibility ourselves. We can legislate but we have to think and act personally too.”

Coun Dunn says it is women who are adversely affected by the abuse. “What I’m really sad about is over the last couple of years there has been a massive swell of young people, especially young women, who have become really active and engaged in their community and I don’t want social media to put them off.

“They have felt that they can do things and they are entitled to have their voice heard and I don’t want that to change. I want a safe environment so more women from all backgrounds come forward into politics. I will campaign really hard to get misogyny classed as a hate crime.”

London Mayor Mr Khan says “online hate speech” has become progressively worse and more common.

He said: “I decided to talk for the first time about the racist, abusive and sometimes illegal tweets and Facebook comments I receive every single day.

“I worry more and more about the impact this kind of abuse is having on young people from diverse backgrounds, who see and read it on their timelines, or even experience it themselves.

“I worry about the talented young people who might be put off from becoming politicians or taking other public roles because they think this kind of abuse is just part of the job.

“And I worry about the girls and women who are being driven off these platforms – reversing our long fight for gender equality.

“I haven’t decided to talk about this now to be portrayed as a victim or to ask for sympathy. I do it to raise awareness of a wider problem that is causing real conflict and real hurt within our societies.

“Of course, we must always protect free speech and the right to criticise those in positions of power but people also have a right not to be abused, intimidated or threatened.”

Victims of online abuse

Singing sisters Joan and Flo from the Nationwide adverts were plagued with death threats and terrible abuse

Bereaved parents who lost their children during the Parkland High School mass shooting in Florida received death threats on social media because they wanted tougher gun laws

Sara Payne, the mother of murdered schoolgirl Sarah, quit Twitter after a campaign of online harassment

Gary Lineker felt “physically sick” when a twitter troll taunted his son George, who had childhood leukaemia

Gary Barlow was shocked by offensive tweets about his stillborn baby daughter Poppy