The joy of being on Twitter – sharing opinions and information, engaging in debate, making connections, looking at gifs of kittens – has always been tempered by the fact that its open and direct nature also handily provides a platform for ridiculous people to express and promote hateful sentiments.
Few are quite so familiar with this as women in the public eye, the double whammy of being female and being visible is a magnet trolls find irresistible.
And thus, as an MP known for fighting for women’s rights, Stella Creasy deals with online hatred and abuse on a daily basis. But she has revealed that it has amplified in recent weeks due to her tabling an amendment to the Queen’s Speech on abortion access for women in Northern Ireland. Thanks to her proposal, the UK government announced that Northern Irish women could have abortions in England funded by the NHS, something soon echoed by Scotland and Wales.
In the days following the announcement, Creasy received a slew of offensive messages from anti-choice campaigners and said it had been happening on her social media channels for three days straight.
While she’s responded to some with a pinch of salt, in other posts she referred to receiving graphic messages, and retweeted one that included a photograph of a foetus to illustrate the type of vitriol continually posted at her (we have not included the original tweet below).
Now she’s revealed that the anti-abortion campaigners have escalated to hysterical and dangerous levels, having received a handwritten death threat through the post referencing her friend and fellow MP, the late Jo Cox.
She captioned the message: “Pro lifer who sends me hate mail about how I should die like my friend Jo Cox? No, that’s just #notcricket .. #noshittakingmp”
The letter read: “Stella Creasy, you are a murder [sic] of small babies. You will all burn in hell for this awful sin. One day hopefully you will join that woman Cox”.
Cox died last year after a far-right extremist attacked her on the street in her Yorkshire constituency of Batley and Spen.
Despite the horrific nature of the missive, Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, soon found herself having to prove that she hadn’t written the note herself (because Twitter):
And thanking a generous social media user for his helpful mansplaining (because Twitter, again):
While it must be wearing to receive such abuse both online and offline on such a regular basis, Creasy still manages to respond lightly to many.
However, speaking from personal experience she has previously pointed out the devastating effect serious trolling can have and called for police and tech companies to take it more seriously, having been a victim herself of online threats so serious that the man behind one particular abuse campaign was jailed.
And the MP is still a strong advocate for social media as a form of communication, telling The Guardian: “We have law that could be used [to tackle online abuse] but we have to change the frame of reference about it. It is still very much a case of when this stuff happens to you, you get told: ‘Don’t feed the trolls.’
“Why is it up to me to find a way of dealing with it rather than them to stop doing it? Why should I not enjoy these types of communication? Just like you wouldn’t say to somebody: ‘Oh just don’t go out at night.’”
Main image: Getty / twitter.com/stellacreasy