Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Internet abuse

The recent death of Brenda Leyland, the women accused of subjecting the parents of Madeline McCann to a campaign of anonymous abuse on the internet, further highlights an issue of growing concern for all who find themselves in the public spotlight for whatever reason. Certainly anyone who achieves public office at any level must be prepared for the inevitable onslaught of internet abuse, particularly if they find themselves in a position of power. One of the biggest changes I noticed during my years away from the council was the growth of the willingness of many who disagreed with a policy to engage in sending unpleasant and often aggressive anonymous e mails. This was particularly the case in my years as Leader when it would appear that some believe that all elected politicians are easy targets for any comments, however unpleasant, abusive and unjustified they might be. On occasions these would arrive on an open e mail with the sender’s name and address which at least allowed for a response but inevitably the worst were anonymous. It is also slightly ironic tha whilst some newspapers are highlighting this issue they should perhaps look at the comments which are added to articles on their websites from anonymous senders which are on occasions as bad. Admittedly there is a choice as to whether you look on these sites but if we are to encourage an adult approach to political debate it is difficult to see how they can be justified. At the least let’s know who posts or sends these items so that they can be responsible in law for their actions. I hope that my successor Ron Woodley has so far avoided this vitriolic electronic postbag but if so I suspect his relief may be short-lived – particularly when he attempts to address the economies which will be essential in next year’s budget.

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