Tag Archives: online abuse

LibLink: Christine Jardine: As I grieved my husband, internet trolls attacked

In her Scotsman column, Christine Jardine describes the pain of losing her husband during the election campaign in 2017 – which was then added to by attacks from internet trolls:

Two years ago, at the most difficult time in my personal life, a political activist who thought they were clever decided it was OK to launch a nasty, and untrue attack.

During the 2017 general election campaign, my husband had died from a sudden and unpredicted heart attack.

The circumstances were particularly difficult. We were separated, he was living on his own and, because my name on his list of next of kin was different from his, the police opted for the other person whose name was the same.

It was my daughter who took the call.

The next few days were a blizzard of emotional conversations until we received the results of a post-mortem which detailed how sudden and irretrievable his attack had been.

There were newspaper stories and obituaries to read from journalists and a media he had worked in for 30 years and who were keen to show their respect.

I struggled with the inevitable questions that come from a loved one’s death, exacerbated in this case by the guilt that came from decisions that had set us on different paths after 30 years together.

On the evening of the funeral, the attacks started:

I discovered I was accused on Twitter of breaking the cross-party agreement not to campaign as a mark of respect to the Manchester bombing.

At first I thought it was a mistake, and explained I had been at what I described as “a family funeral”.

Internet trolls started vying to see who could be nastiest about me, while others piled in to try and defend and one or two did send me an apology.

Next day it was all over the papers. There were demands for an apology aimed at the political party whose activist had started it all.

And at the centre of it all my daughter, who was trying to deal with the death of the father she adored, was now dealing with a vicious attack on her mother.

So what’s the way out of all of this?

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 5 Comments

Tory leadership contest already degenerating into online abuse.

One of the reasons there is a lot of solidarity among women in politics is that we all have to put up with a lot of the same crap.

We have to deal with people thinking that they have the right to say things to us about our appearance, our behaviour and our beliefs than they would ever dare to say to another man.

So when I saw Conservative MP Antoinette Sandbach tweet a horrible message (which she has since deleted) she’d had from a male Tory MP, my first thought was sympathy for her.

At the tail end of the coalition, I actually felt I was going to completely go under at one point with all the abuse I was getting. And the worst was from fellow Lib Dems telling me what a disgrace I was. The pro-coalition people didn’t think I was loyal enough to Nick Clegg. The anti-coalition people thought I was too slavishly loyal to Nick Clegg.  And I got it at full pelt from both sides.

A year or so later, I wrote about the experience, and this seems to be a good time to reprise that here:

The internet is a pretty torrid place at the best of times. Some users delight in throwing rage, bile and abuse around the place. If you are a woman the abuse can be particularly graphic, sexualised and incredibly unpleasant.

In a feature for Radio 5 live, 3 politicians, including our former minister Jo Swinson, talk about their experiences of online abuse and how it affected them. Also taking part are my SNP MP Hannah Bardell and Labour’s Diane Abbott, who gets a whole load of racist bile thrown in just for good measure.

This is fairly routine for any woman who commits the “offence” of going on the internet in possession of an opinion. I’ve come in for it myself and it does wear you down. There was a time a couple of years ago where it really started to affect me badly and reduced me to tears on several occasions. The European elections disaster and the independence referendum combined to create what seemed to be a never-ending spiral of abuse. The most hurtful came from commenters on this site, members of the party, some of whom I actually know in real life, who said some pretty unpleasant personal stuff, but they were just part of it. It felt that wherever I turned, there was nastiness.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 20 Comments

WATCH: Christine Jardine on the “mindless, vindictive” online attacks she endured on day of her husband’s funeral

One of the most awful points of the General Election was seeing Christine Jardine coming under attack from a whole load of people online. They’d accused her of breaking the campaign pause in Edinburgh West. She had, in fact, been at her husband’s funeral. Even when they were told the situation, they kept going and kept throwing even more abuse. It was shameful.

This afternoon, in a debate on online abuse in the House of Commons, Christine spoke very powerfully about those experiences. Sure, politicians were going to be subject to disagreement and comment but nobody signs up for intimidation and abuse.

I thought that she made some really sensitive and intelligent comments about mental health, too. She outlined how social media could be a force for good for those who suffered from mental ill health and how it could really help with isolation. I actually know that from my own experience. Back in 2009, Twitter kept me going when I was laid low for months by Glandular Fever. That was in the early days when it was a lovely place to be. I actually made some friends on there who became friends in real life. But social media also has a potential to do much harm to mental health if people were subjected to abuse and bullying.

Last year I wrote of my own experience of online abuse and how it came pretty close to breaking my spirit.

Here is Christine’s speech in full. The text is below.

Mr Speaker sir thank you for calling me to speak in a debate which, for me, has such personal resonance.

During the most recent General Election I was one of those who discovered just how easily an on line platform can be used to spread hurtful or personally abusive lies.

My experience – which is far from the worst example – actually started with something I originally put down to a genuine mistake or misunderstanding…. Before quickly realising it was actually an attempt to gain political advantage with no respect whatsoever for the personal impact… or the truth.

During the break in campaigning as a mark of respect following the Manchester attack I was accused, on social media, by an activist from another party, of ignoring that and going out campaigning.

I had, in fact, been at my husbands funeral.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Online abuse might not break bones, but it can come close to breaking your spirit

The internet is a pretty torrid place at the best of times. Some users delight in throwing rage, bile and abuse around the place. If you are a woman the abuse can be particularly graphic, sexualised and incredibly unpleasant.

In a feature for Radio 5 live, 3 politicians, including our former minister Jo Swinson, talk about their experiences of online abuse and how it affected them. Also taking part are my SNP MP Hannah Bardell and Labour’s Diane Abbott, who gets a whole load of racist bile thrown in just for good measure.

This is fairly routine for any woman who commits the “offence” of going on the internet in possession of an opinion. I’ve come in for it myself and it does wear you down. There was a time a couple of years ago where it really started to affect me badly and reduced me to tears on several occasions. The European elections disaster and the independence referendum combined to create what seemed to be a never-ending spiral of abuse. The most hurtful came from commenters on this site, members of the party, some of whom I actually know in real life, who said some pretty unpleasant personal stuff, but they were just part of it. It felt that wherever I turned, there was nastiness.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 30 Comments

Swinson and Farron speak out against online abuse after threats sent to Labour MP Jess Phillips

The internet can be a torrid place, as we all know. If you’re a woman, especially one who dares express an opinion that doesn’t sit well with a very small minority of men, you are likely to get a particularly brutal form of abuse, usually coupled with threats of sexual violence.

When Labour MP Jess Phillips reacted with incredulity to Tory Phillip Davies’ request for a debate on International Men’s Day, she was subjected to some awful abuse. You know it’s bad when one of the milder things written was an observation that seeing her spirit die would be a rewarding experience. Who could possibly think that that was ok to say to anyone about anything?

Buzzfeed UK has the full story including the full tweet. They are pretty stomach turning.

It’s important to realise that women have to put up with this sort of nonsense every day. Yes, men get abuse too, but there is a gendered aspect that is chilling. A few years ago, I wrote about how demeaning it felt when a man sat next to me on a flight reading his lad’s mag with photos of very scantily clad women. I suggested that this might be something that they should not be doing in the public space and was told that I deserved to be raped, like brutal sexual violence was an acceptable reaction to disagreeing with someone.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 18 Comments
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