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Time to reclaim the internet

Time to reclaim the internet
3 min read

The former shadow home secretary calls for a change in attitudes to online abuse and intimidation as she calls on people to #reclaimtheinternet.

“This is for everyone” said Tim Berners Lee when he invented the World Wide Web 30 years ago. Except that right now it isn't.

The internet is an amazing place - and it must always be a forum for freedom of speech, a way to give voice to the voiceless, or hold the powerful to account. Every voice matters. Yet some voices are being drowned out by misogyny, racist abuse, bullying or intimidation.

We've heard from teenagers traumatised by online bullying, teachers whose work was affected by online abuse from pupils and parents, people by an onslaught of online racist smears and slurs, from women who received rape threats, or young people humiliated by revenge porn.

Few of us would stand by while this kind of abuse happened to our friends or family in the street. So it's time now to challenge the nature of abuse online.

Because it can affect everyone. The teacher’s union NASUWT say that more than half of teachers report receiving online abuse from parents and pupils. Just for doing their job.

The Revenge Porn helpline has had 4000 in the last year.

Yet let's be honest. None of us has all the answers. And no one institution or organisation can sort this alone. The technology moves so fast, we are all still working out how to be good online citizens and where the lines should be drawn.

That's why we are calling on everyone to get involved, why we've set up a website to crowdsource the ideas and action we need.

Reclaim the Internet has support from politicians of all parties, trade unions, social media companies, the police, charities, think tanks and campaign groups. We want more evidence and research, more personal stories and ideas. And we're asking what more everyone should be doing - be it the police tackling criminal abuse or the wittiest way to take on a troll.

In the 70s and 80s, women took to the streets to “Reclaim the Night." Faced with warnings that women should stay home after dark because the streets weren't safe they decided to do the opposite and demand action to make the streets safe for everyone. They called for action from the police, from local councils and for a change in attitudes towards violence and abuse.

Forty years on, the internet is our new streets and public spaces. This must be for everyone. That's why together we need to #reclaimtheinternet

Rt Hon Yvette Cooper MP is the Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford

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