Belfast Telegraph

I can take political debate but abuse unacceptable: MLA Carla Lockhart calls on Twitter to get tough on trolls

A DUP MLA has said that while she can take robust political debate on social media, personal abuse she, her party leader and others have been subject to has gone too far.

The Upper Bann politician also called on Twitter to get tough on trolls on its network saying it could do more to verify accounts.

The attacks started after Mrs Foster posted a selfie of herself with the Upper Bann MLA at the Erne West DUP dinner on Friday. Many of those abusive tweets were later deleted.

While some Twitter users posted references to Mrs Foster's evidence to the RHI Inquiry last week, a number of other cruel "abusive" comments were posted about the appearance of the pair.

"The comments were very personal and very hurtful," Ms Lockhart told the BBC.

"I am used to political debate on Twitter and known as someone who would be very vocal but the level of abuse directed at myself and Arlene was totally unacceptable.

"Most of the time I roll with them and for anyone that knows me, knows I'm a tough cookie but from my family's perspective it is quite difficult for them."

The DUP MLA said she was regularly subjected to abuse on the social network and had to a degree "grown immune".

"Not that that makes it right, it is bullying," she added.

Indeed even on Monday after a weekend of support from across the political divide for Mrs Foster and Ms Lockhart there was still people taking aim at them.

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She added: "I am always open to political debate. We all have features we would maybe change... but that doesn't give anyone the right to comment on them.

"Clearly there is misogyny there. A number of female politicians have suffered this and I was overwhelmed at those that have supported me from right across the political spectrum.

"While much of the abuse had come from faceless trolls and no doubt there is a societal problem but there could be more done and we need our social media organisations working together with the police to bring those responsible to account."

Twitter has been approached for a comment.

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