DUP MLA says proposed online legislation will still allow abusers to ‘hide behind a cloak of anonymity’
DUP MLA Diane Dodds has said she will be visiting a police station along with the victim of a terrorist attack to report a social media account which targeted them and their families.
Speaking on BBC’s the Nolan Show on Tuesday, she said that a tweet mocking the death of her son, Andrew, which was meant for harm actually generated “a huge swell of kindness and goodwill and support” which is important in difficult circumstances.
Mrs Dodds posted on Twitter to wish her followers a happy new year. One user responded by making reference to Nigel and Diane Dodds’ dead son. Andrew Dodds was born with spina bifida and died in 1998 - just before his ninth birthday.
Since the sinister anonymous message was posted on Twitter, the social media giant has said it did not break their safety policies.
The Twitter account which was used to send the offensive message, taking aim at the MLA's late son is now no longer in use.
Mrs Dodds described Andrew as a “fun-loving boy” who had a “huge personality” and also “very significant health problems”.
Due to complex needs his health was jeopardised on many occasions and that led to many hospitalisations and ventilations.
She told the Nolan Show that it’s hard for anyone to understand the impact it had on a family and it never goes away.
“Because he had been ventilated on many occasions it meant that he had a very weak chest and Andrew simply took a cold and pneumonia and passed away,” Mrs Dodds explained.
The DUP MLA for Upper Bann said: “I decided to use a happy picture of me with my two dogs out walking at Drumkeeragh Forest and somehow or other that managed to be turned into something which mocked the death of our son.”
She said every one with a “right thought in their head” was rightly appalled by the “hugely harmful, hugely hurtful and damaging” post.
“Make no mistake about it, people who set out to do this kind of thing, set out to harm, they are malicious, and they are callous in what they do.
“And they set out to do it in a way that strikes at the very core of your being and that is their intent.
“I think on this occasion they failed in that sense because the reaction to what happened was so strong.
“But we should also recognise that this account has a pattern of abuse and that pattern of abuse includes trolling innocent victims of terrorism and I later on today will give a statement to police about what happened on New Year’s Eve.
“But I will also be joined to do that by a man who has been trolled relentlessly by this particular account. That man lost his father, he was shot by a republican terrorist and this is the kind of behaviour that innocent victims of terror have also been subjected to.”
Mrs Dodds explained that messages directed at this man targeted his mother, father and wider family circle.
When the tweet was reported, Twitter said it didn’t break the rules laid out in their safety policy, which outlines their principles against abuse, harassment, violence and criminal actions on the platform.
“What is even more appalling in all of this,” the DUP MLA said, “is the actual inaction of social media companies on this.
“It’s really difficult to understand what kind of rules and format for protecting the public that social media companies have if tweets like this, and I’m sure many, many others that have been reported in a similar vain do not breach their rules or standards.”
Referencing online safety legislation, Mrs Dodds said current proposals do not go far enough because users will still be able to “hide behind a cloak of anonymity” and no proofs are required to verify who you are.
She believes the new laws will have “no teeth” to go after social media companies.