MP urges online trolls lose anonymity after receiving 600 rape threats in one night

A Labour MP who has been the victim of vicious abuse by trolls on social media has called for them to lose their anonymity online.

Jess Phillips said Parliament needs to act against the anonymous trolls who abuse her on a daily basis.

The Birmingham Yardley MP said she wanted to see changes which would mean that account holders would have to disclose their real identity to Facebook and Twitter, although they could still post messages anonymously.

Over the weekend, Security Minister Ben Wallace said digital IDs should be brought in to end online anonymity that permits bullying and grooming.

It comes after Prime Minister Theresa May used the G7 Summit to call for the tech giants to clamp down on vile attacks against women on their platforms.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Ms Phillips said: “In my own experience, the violence and aggression I am threatened with every single day has its peaks and troughs depending on what I’m talking about.

“If you speak from a feminist perspective, which I very frequently do, you will suffer from a huge amount of internet trolling, largely from what seems to be the Alt Right.

“The other sort of trolling MPs suffer is issue-based or ideologically-based, whether you agree with Jeremy Corbyn or not, which is a classic reason to be trolled mercilessly.”

She said she the police had issued harassment orders against two individuals for “constantly emailing me with bile and abuse”.

“I take it as water off a duck’s back and I don’t ever think anyone is going to physically hurt me, even though I have received emails, Twitter comments and Facebook diatribes,” she said.

“In one night I received 600 rape threats. It was probably more, but I stopped counting. To try and subvert that, I received thousands of comments from people saying ‘I wouldn’t even rape her’.

“I have suffered all of those things and I have to say I don’t feel I am physically in any danger and I don’t think my children are in any danger.

“However, where it does worry me, and I think we have to do something about, is when it affects our democracy.

“I personally have come to the viewpoint that I don’t think people should be allowed to be completely anonymous online anymore. I don’t mind if people appear anonymous online for all sorts of really reasonable reasons.”

Ms Phillips cited the example of a teacher in her constituency who wanted to speak out against Government cuts in schools.

“They want to be anonymous, but they wouldn’t mind not being anonymous to the provider and tell Facebook or Twitter who they are but to the public they want to appear anonymous,” she said.

“Anyone who wishes to damage our democracy can just write all that stuff. I think we have got to try and do something about this and I think the anonymity debate is probably where Parliament will lead.”

Professor Catriona Morrison, a psychologist at the University of Bradford, suggested trolls had a “cloak of anonymity” and could be tracked down.

“I do think the anonymity thing is a red herring because people think they are anonymous and they are not,” she said.

Earlier this year, the Government announced plans to introduce new laws, including a mandatory social media code of practice.

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Victoria Jones / PA Wire.