Online abuse 'not just about persecution of women' says Labour MP Yvette Cooper

By Felicity Morse
Newsbeat social media producer

  • Published
Online abuse can target menImage source, Getty Images

Imagine if every time you opened your front door, 50 people were waiting to shout abuse.

Maybe because of what you look like, because of the colour of your skin, because of your sexuality.

Now imagine instead of opening the front door, you're opening the lid of your laptop.

Does that make it any less harmful? And is it any easier to stop it?

Labour politician Yvette Cooper thinks people are being bullied off social media by abusive behaviour and something needs to be done about it.

And she thinks it affects men as well as women.

Yvette Cooper is the Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford and she thinks we need to tackle this online "persecution".

"We want a big campaign to reclaim the internet, to stand up against the abuse," she tells Newsbeat.

"We've started by looking at some of the misogyny and the real sexist abuse women can face, particularly teenage girls.

"There is some evidence there are small groups of people who are deliberately organising abuse to target particular women or people for a particular reason.

"That's more like stalking and harassment.

"I've talked to women who've ended up leaving their homes because they've had death threats online and then they've ended up having things posted through their door.

"But this has actually got to be about abuse much more widely and where men are targeted as well as women.

"There is a big problem for men at risk of suicide. There also can be a big problem with things like homophobic bullying because often for young gay men there's a very high suicide rate."

YouTuber Em Ford has experienced bullying online but wanted to focus on the effect it can have on young men.

Image source, Em Ford
Image caption,
Em Ford used comments left on her videos, with and without make-up to highlight the issues around trolling
Image source, Em Ford/YouTube
Image caption,
A screenshot from Em Ford's video where she used real comments left on her videos

"I think young men also get a hard time online - it's not just women who are getting abused, as brutal as some of the abuse is that is being directed a women is.

"I know people who have a had rape threats, death threats and some of them are absolutely horrendous but I do think we do have to remember the most at-risk group too.

"Men may feel like, 'Oh, I'm a man I should be able to deal with this,' because they think that is what society is saying. You know, 'Man up.'"

Although Yvette Cooper says social networks need to do more to police this behaviour, Em says we can't blame them for everything.

Image source, Em Ford

"It's more about how we use them as a society that we can improve on," she says.

"The networks themselves are purely there to facilitate a conversation, they aren't starting it.

"Sometimes people hide behind freedom of speech online and they might think they are using their right to free speech when actually they are being incredibly libellous or they are being racist or harassing someone.

"They might be using their right to free speech but is it a legal right?"

"I think a phenomenal way to look at social media is, 'It may be truthful but is it kind?' It's always so important to be nice."

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