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Misogynist Bullying: Social Media

Volume 604: debated on Thursday 14 January 2016

Bullying of any kind, whether online or offline, is absolutely unacceptable. There is also no place for misogyny or trolling in our society. My Department has set up the Stop Online Abuse website to provide women and LGBT adults with practical advice on how to recognise abuse, including on social media. I also want to echo the welcome for the report from the Women and Equalities Select Committee on transgender equality, which was published today. It makes specific recommendations for addressing online safety and the treatment of transgender people, which we will take very seriously.

What conversations has the Minister had with social media providers about misogynistic online abuse, and will she make a statement?

I and other Ministers, including my hon. Friend the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy speak to social media providers all the time about these issues. I welcome the recent statement from a Twitter director saying that it thought it was doing better on dealing with trolls, but I think it recognised that it needed to do more.

I hope that the hon. Lady will also recognise that there are issues closer to home. She will remember the statement made by her own party leader at her party’s conference last autumn, when he had to appeal to activists. He said:

“I say to all activists, whether Labour or not, cut out the personal attacks, the cyber bullying and especially the misogynistic abuse online”.

I hope that the hon. Lady will tackle her own party in regard to this issue.

Will the Secretary of State tell us what evidence there is of improved data collection to give us the true scale of this abuse? What evidence is there that police officers up and down the country are receiving appropriate training to enable them to identify and deal with the perpetrators of the abuse?

I will have to come back to the hon. Gentleman on the question of data collection, which I am happy to do. I suspect that some organisations are better than others. I mentioned the revenge porn helpline earlier, which clearly is monitoring and keeping data. We want to evaluate such data one year on, in February or March of this year. I have already said that what is illegal offline is also illegal online, and that has been made very clear to all police forces up and down the country. We continue to make that case to them.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the increasingly digital world in which we live makes it absolutely vital to help children, parents and carers to deal with this vile online abuse and cyber-bullying?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course it is much better to educate young people against any of this in the first place, to ensure that they are robust and resilient if they come across unwanted images or cyber-bullying. She is also absolutely right to mention parents and carers. There is a range of websites and organisations to help parents to understand how to discuss these issues with children, and the Government Equalities Office and the Home Office have invested £3.85 million in a new phase of our This is Abuse campaign, which tackles abuse within teenage relationships and will be launched later this year.

Following on from the earlier response to the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), will the Secretary of State recognise the huge amount of online bullying that is being directed towards the trans community, leading to high levels of mental ill health and suicide within that community? Will she ensure that it is tackled when she reviews the trans inquiry?

My hon. Friend is a member of the Select Committee and I warmly welcome the landmark report that has been published today. It has highlighted lots of actions that are needed to be taken across government. He is absolutely right to mention the issue of social media and online bullying, which I have already mentioned, and the effects that that has on mental health, and the ability of members of the transgender community to take part in life, the workplace and elsewhere. We take such issues very seriously. We need to look at all the action we have taken on online abuse, and work out how we can ensure that it is also accessible to members of the trans community.