Online abuse and the harm it causes must be rooted out of our society, says Alliance MLAs

Alliance MLAs Connie Egan and Patricia O’Lynn have called for the eradication of targeted cyber abuse, after attending a meeting convened by Justice Minister Naomi Long on Tuesday (18th), aimed at tackling the online abuse of women in public life.

Naomi Long Connie Egan Patricia O'Lynn online abuse cyber abuse

Alongside a presentation given by the PSNI, there were also representatives in attendance from the Executive Office’s ‘Ending Violence Against Women and Girls’ Strategy team, who aim to identify actions to tackle all kinds of offences, ranging from micro-aggressions and misogyny, through to violent and abusive behaviour directed at women and girls.

At the meeting, they spoke to a cross-party group of MLAs.

Connie Egan MLA said: "It is welcome to see collective agreement that social media companies need to do more to tackle online abuse and deal with the harm caused by individuals on these platforms.

"The levels of online abuse, harassment and intimidation in our society are absolutely unacceptable, and at times criminal. The impact it has on encouraging potential future candidates for political office in particular, especially female candidates, is now being felt across our political system.

"Tackling online abuse and misogyny needs a society-wide approach. With that in mind, I welcome Justice Minister Naomi Long and her Department taking proactive steps to address this issue and I look forward to continued engagement with the Minister, MLAs, and the Police."

In the coming months, Patricia O’Lynn MLA is also due to chair an All Party Group on Online Harms, prompted in part by increasing concerns regarding the disproportionate level of online abuse and intimidation received by female candidates during the last election cycle, as well as broader issues surrounding general disinformation. 

Patricia has said, “This is an extremely serious issue, and so much more needs to be done in terms of combating the disgraceful, and often targeted, harassment of public figures - especially women.

“I very much welcome the engagement of the PSNI at this event, and look forward to working further towards the goal of stamping out intimidation and threatening online behaviour once and for all”.