Mon, 17 May 2021

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By Josh Martin
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Labour MP Jess Phillips urges tech giants to unmask online trolls

Labour MP Jess Phillips urges tech giants to unmask online trolls
2 min read

Online trolls should lose the right to anonymity, Labour's Jess Philips has said - as she revealed the horrific abuse she has faced on social media.

Digital Minister Ben Wallace this weekend urged social media giants like Facebook and Twitter to do more to step up ID verification on their platforms in a bid to tackle "mob rule".

Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Ms Phillips - the Birmingham Yardley MP - backed calls for a new law to unmask online abusers, after receiving hundreds of rape threats in a single night.

Ms Phillips said she had so far treated the threats as "water off a duck's back", but she expressed fears that letting people sign up for social media services without proving who they are to those tech firms risked damaging democracy.

She said: "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.

"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."

Ms Philips told festival-goers that she had faced online abuse from "alt Right" trolls for her feminist stance, as well as from left-wingers over her scepticism of the current Labour leadership.

"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.

The Labour MP's call to beef up online safeguards comes after Theresa May used a speech at the G7 summit in Canada to call on tech firms to do more to combat the "vile online harassment" faced by women and girls.

"The technology companies who are making welcome progress in banning and removing extremist content must use the same methods to prioritise tackling this unacceptable and deeply worrying rising trend," the Prime Minister said.

A report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life last year warned that personal abuse and threats received by female MPs risked deterring women from entering politics.


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