Belfast Telegraph

Naomi Long: We will look at online bullying prevention strategies, but onus is on global firms to stop it

Naomi Long has hit out at anonymous social media trolls but believes the issue extends far beyond devolved government
Naomi Long has hit out at anonymous social media trolls but believes the issue extends far beyond devolved government
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Naomi Long has hit out at anonymous social media trolls but believes the issue extends far beyond devolved government.

Ms Long, who has been subjected to personal online abuse alongside other high-profile female politicians including the DUP MP Carla Lockhart, said responsibility falls on the companies who provide social media platforms.

Her popularity with the centre ground electorate has also previously made the East Belfast Assembly member a target of vicious electoral threats, especially in the run-up to the recent Westminster election. Asked for her views on people who write defamatory posts, she said "online bullying is a massive issue".

But Ms Long also said it wasn't necessarily "something that is simply dealt with in the Northern Ireland space at a devolved level".

"You're essentially dealing with global corporations, who also need to take responsibility - not just the individuals who post but the platforms on which they're publishing their material," she added.

Defending Ms Lockhart against slurs in the past, Ms Long previously said on Twitter: "It's disgusting, yet all too common an experience for women in particular in public life. It's bullying. It needs to stop." And yesterday she revealed how her complaints to companies behind some social media platforms fell on deaf ears.

Ms Long added: "I have personal experience of sending (on) some fairly horrendous threats and abuse to those companies and being told that it doesn't breach their standards - which begs the question 'what are your standards if this is acceptable?'

"The police are pretty responsive around these issues and do take them seriously, but online bullying is a much wider piece and when you talk about mental health, online bullying of young people is increasingly an area of concern. We need to look at strategies on how to deal with social media. Anonymity online is dangerous." She added: "A lot needs to be done but not necessarily as a matter for the Department of Justice. Some work needs to be done by those large companies who has responsibility for the platforms."

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