Countdown presenter and former Strictly star Rachel Riley has revealed that she blocked 1,500 online trolls, as she started a campaign not to share social media abuse.
Last year, an Amnesty International study found that a woman is trolled on Twitter on average every 30 seconds. That’s quite a shocking statistic, right? But one person who knows the reality behind it all too well is Countdown presenter Rachel Riley. For the last few years, the former Strictly star has been targeted by antisemitic abuse online.
She has now spoken out about just how bad the abuse became, and how it has affected her mental health and pregnancy.
Speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show, Riley revealed that she has blocked around 1,500 trolls on Twitter.
“Being a victim breeds being a victim, they will attack you even more. I’ve had all sorts, I’ve had people deny my Jewish heritage, saying that my dead granddad would be disgusted by me,” she said. “[I’ve been compared to] a Nazi, a white supremacist, a pedophile enabler – I mean, you name it, these people are saying it. And I don’t want to give them any oxygen.”
Talking about how it has affected her pregnancy, she added: “I had a stressful weekend on social media and my baby went quiet for a couple of days. And that made me realise however mentally strong I am, there’s a reaction, a fight or flight. There’s adrenaline and hormones that go through your body. And now I’m sharing them, I absolutely don’t need to give that to my baby.”
Riley explained: “I used to retweet things, when I saw something awful. And most people do object and see how awful it is, but I didn’t realise that I was accidentally sharing their message. So now I do block.”
She continued: “1,500 blocked sounds like a large number but it’s a tiny amount of people who are driving this. And that’s cut it out. I’ve changed my settings. My mental health is a lot better and my baby is a lot happier.”
Riley has joined fellow high profile figures, including Aisling Bea, Gary Lineker and Richard Osman, to support a campaign by The Centre for Countering Digital Hate. They are pledging to ignore the abuse they receive online instead of reacting to it and highlighting it in people’s feeds.
The charity recommends muting notifications and taking a break from social media if you start to receive negative comments. This is because hate speech is inadvertently spread on social media when a user quotes, shares or replies to it.
The guide contains advice on next steps, including taking screenshots of any abuse that might be defamatory or incites violence, reporting posts to the social media company or potentially the police, and asking for help from anti-hate organisations.