Diane Abbott calls for less online anonymity amid abuse of MPs

The shadow home secretary wants social media giants to record users' real names and addresses

ONLINE ABUSE: Diane Abbott

DIANE ABBOTT has called for social media companies to tackle anonymity of their users as part of their efforts to crackdown on online abuse.

Her comments come as a number of MPs have cited online abuse as a significant factor in their decisions to step down. 

The shadow home secretary received almost half of all abusive tweets sent to female MPs during the last general election, according to research by Amnesty International.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, Abbott said that she got through it by “putting one foot in front of the other” but said that tech companies need to do more to address it.

“A lot of people try to make party political points or factional points about this. What I say is the huge rise in online abuse – and obviously it’s addressed more to women than anybody else – has to do with anonymity online, and my view is we should make it harder for people to be anonymous online,” Abbott told the Today programme’s Mishal Husain. 

She added: “They can have an anonymous identity, but the website, Twitter, Facebook, should have their real name and address. I believe that the fact that people are completely anonymous has made this problem worse.

“When we try, when the police try and track down people who are abusing me, they find they can’t identify them. If Twitter, Facebook and online had the people’s real name and address, I think you’d be able to crack down on this.”

Liberal Democrat MP Heidi Allen, who was among those who revealed they would stand in the next election, said that she installed panic alarms at her home as a result of the abuse and threats she received online. 

“I am exhausted by the invasion into my privacy and the nastiness and intimidation that has become commonplace. Nobody in any job should have to put up with threats, aggressive emails, being shouted at in the street, sworn at on social media, nor have to install panic alarms at home,” Allen wrote in a letter to her South Cambridgeshire constituents.

In her letter announcing she would not stand in the next election, Conservative MP Nicky Morgan wrote about the impact of “abuse for doing the job of a modern MP”.

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