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Friday 30 September 2016

'I've had eight hours of non-stop hate': Black woman suffers racist abuse while tweeting for @Ireland account

Tomás Heneghan

Published 23/08/2016 | 11:24

Plus-size model Michelle Marie took over the popular @Ireland Twitter account
Plus-size model Michelle Marie took over the popular @Ireland Twitter account

A female Twitter user has faced racial abuse for curating a popular account on the social media site this week.

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Michelle Marie, who styles herself as a plus size model came under racial attack on Monday after taking over the weekly position of curator for the @Ireland Twitter account.

One Twitter user claimed: “You are not Irish. You would not genetically cluster w/ Irish. Stop appropriating white culture & return to ancestral lands.”

Another said: “Ireland is for the Irish. Generations fought to make it so. Would an Irish person be the face of @Nigeria? Hell no.”

Michelle, who is originally from the United Kingdom explained: “All this prejudice and hate. It’s so horrible. And so much ignorance too. What a sad day.

“Never mind the facts. That genetically I’m quarter white British. Or that the 3rd world home I’m meant to f**k off back to is England.

“I had no idea that my mere presence and a few tweets would result in an epic race row.”

However the racial abuse continued with one user asking: “Why do you feel no sense of shame trying to steal other people’s cultural heritage?”

The majority of Twitter accounts directing the abuse at Michelle appeared to be from the USA and many openly presented their support for US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Before she signed off the @Ireland account on Monday night, the mother and self-professed “self love advocate” wrote about her experience over the day.

She explained: “I understood the @Ireland account to be a platform for all people who have an Irish connection or a grá for the country/culture. I am in no way claiming to be Irish or to reflect the native Irish in any way.

“I moved from England to Ireland 3 years ago. My other half is Irish. My daughter is an Irish citizen. It is my adopted home and I love living here.

“I applied to curate the account to share my experiences living here, my personal interests/experiences, and the body positivity work that I do.

“Many non-natives, non-residents, and persons of colour have gone before me on the account so I felt welcome to apply.

“I expected trolls, and a backlash, and criticism. But today I have experiences racism, sexism, fatphobia, and homophobia to a degree I have never known. I have had 8 hours of nonstop hate thrown at me. I am hurt, shocked, and appalled.

“Thank you to those who have welcomed me and shown me kindness and support. I want to see this week through for you. So tonight, for the sake of my wellbeing, I am signing off. But tomorrow I shall try again. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

The @Ireland Twitter account is rotated between new curators each week and gives each individual a platform to tweet about their views, their work or any other aspect of their lives to an audience of over 40,000 people worldwide.

The account is managed by Darragh Doyle, who told Independent.ie the account was being monitored and abusive users were being reported and blocked as necessary.

Mr Doyle said: “Yesterday, in what looks like a coordinated attack, a number of openly racist, white power, pro-Nazi and apparently, judging by their content, American accounts, mostly "anonymous" - i.e. not in the tweeters real name or profile - sent hateful, racist and body shaming tweets to the current @ireland curator.

“It seems to have really kicked off when the @ireland account shared some of the abuse that she was getting.”

“Most of the accounts sending abuse did not follow @ireland and were not aware of it previously,” Mr Doyle added.

He continued: “People have to put up with this every day on the platform unfortunately and a lot of people saw it in effect via the @ireland account yesterday.

“The vast majority of tweets to the @ireland account yesterday, particularly from Ireland or Irish people, condemned the racism / sexism / vile tweets that had been sent and were supportive of Michelle.

“Obviously the hateful ones are disgusting and unacceptable for anyone to get.

"The @ireland account has grown, over the last years, to become a much followed account and platform for people who wish to use it as such. While it has attracted controversy and discussion over the past years, it has never been targeted like this before.

“While I've reached out to the Twitter Office in Dublin, I've advised Michelle and anyone who sees racist, exist, fat-shaming or otherwise obvious "trolling" / attack tweets to report them for abuse to Twitter and to block the accounts.

“I'm monitoring the account and have been since this started.”

He continued: “Most of the anonymous, racist accounts and tweeters have been blocked and reported and we continue to do so.

“There is obviously a big difference between people who want to use twitter to discuss, ask questions and meaningfully engage with people and those who use it to spread hate, dissent and nastiness.

“There are accounts set up to do that, targeting certain search terms, key words and profiles they feel are an "easy target" and we saw some of them in action yesterday, unfortunately.”

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