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Sunday 15 July 2018

I spend my evenings blocking abusers: TD

Anne Rabbitte TD Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Anne Rabbitte TD Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
James Lawless TD
Kate O'Connell TD

Ryan Nugent

A female TD has described how she sits at home at night blocking internet trolls amid a torrent of abuse across social media.

Fianna Fáil's Anne Rabbitte has said the Government must introduce a digital safety commissioner to combat the constant abuse hurled at politicians online, along with the general public.

Ms Rabbitte was part of a Dáil committee that quizzed Facebook on its protocols in December in relation to online trolling and admits she was stunned the social media giant said public representatives were not covered under the full protection of its bullying rules.

"Because I'm in the public eye, I should be able to take more heat? How do they know my mental health? It's adding fuel to the fire," Ms Rabbitte said.

The Galway-East TD commended Lorraine Higgins for taking the case of an online troll to court.

Ms Rabbitte also referred to online abuse received by Senator Catherine Noone while she was chair of the Oireachtas Committee on abortion.

Awful

"The abuse Catherine Noone took was awful," she said. "We've all been a Catherine (in relation to abuse received).

"I had loads of abuse during Repeal the Eighth (committee) and I would block, block, block to my heart's content," she added.

Fine Gael TD, Kate O'Connell told the Irish Independent last night that she would get abuse mostly from pro-life campaigners or in relation to the HPV vaccine or medicinal cannabis.

She said that while she hadn't received an actual death threat, she had received messages from people hoping she would die.

One such message from a troll hoped she would choke to death. "I feel sorry people who do this and say these things - often in the middle of the night - it's sad," she said. "I suppose I get awful things, very awful things."

Waves

"How we deal with it is it usually comes in waves, so the minute that it kicks off, my staff take over my social media and I have nothing to do with it."

Ms O'Connell added that before blocking and deleting any vulgar abuse, they screenshot the comments and report them to Facebook.

Kildare TD James Lawless said the case taken by Ms Higgins showed people could be held accountable online. "People think they can hide behind a cloak of anonymity online. This case proves that isn't the case," he said.

Irish Independent

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