Unison Wales - Online Abuse Putting Women Off Politics -

Unison Wales – Online Abuse Putting Women Off Politics

Online Abuse

The level of online abuse politicians face is keeping some women from running for public office, Union Wales said. Women are battling with sexist comments and insults which have become too commonplace.

MP candidate Ms. Owen expressed shock at the trolling she had been subjected on Facebook and Twitter to since standing for election to become an MP.

Emily Owen Online abuse

It comes six months after Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood alleged that she suffered vile abuse targeted at her on Twitter. One man was jailed for tweeting her and making reference to rape while another was a community sentence for saying someone should shoot her. The attack on them and women in politics, in general, has prompted Unison Wales - the public services union with predominantly female members to which Ms. Owen and Leanne Wood, to seriously consider training for members on how to deal with online trolling.

"It's becoming a massive issue - it's sexism, bullying, people being judged on their appearance... and people shouldn't have to put up with it just because they are in a prominent position," said Jenny Griffin, who runs Unison's cyber bullying course. "It's definitely putting women off standing for these roles, particularly, women with kids, as they don't want to put their family through it as the people around you often get targeted too."

Online Trolling - 'Homophobic comments'

"It's undoubtedly got worse in the last two to three years. I get it daily - lots of swear words, homophobic comments, and downright lies. People write anonymously on social media things they wouldn't dream of writing in a letter or saying to your face."

"I'm absolutely certain it puts a lot of women off, particularly those with children. I know lots of people who have thought about going into politics and have decided they simply don't want to put themselves up for it - you get this endless barrage."

Leanne Wood Online Abuse Plaid Cymru's parliamentary candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd - Liz Saville Roberts also introduced a bill while working as an MP. The bill was to tackle online abuse and cyber crime.

"I have been speaking to female politicians across all party lines and this is an issue, although I'd say it seems to affect younger women more," she said. "I believe social media platforms should be doing more to tackle this. They have a responsibility and I feel they are lacking in answerability."

Light At The End Of The Tunnel Prof Matthew Williams, from Cardiff University's criminology department, is of the firm belief that the benefits of social media far outweigh the negatives although, political events can often trigger extreme views which may lead to abuse on social media.

"I don't necessarily think problems with social media would put younger people off a career in politics and in many ways it's an advantage for spreading their message," he said. "But you need to be savvy to avoid the dangers and victimisation. If anybody is receiving a torrent of abuse, the first thing they should do is call the police. "If the police don't take action, softer measures can also be used, like blocking people. You can also ask Twitter and Facebook to remove comments."

He continues: "We see spikes, if you look at the data. Events like the general election will see a huge spike in online hate," he added. "We also saw it after the EU referendum, when emotions run high and extreme views are galvanised in certain groups in society." It is an issue that the political parties say they are taking seriously. A Conservative spokesman said: "When online abuse is brought to our attention, we support candidates and MPs in dealing with it. "In serious instances of online abuse we would always recommend reporting it to the police."

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