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Television star Emily Atack and Stroud MP tackle online abuse

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Stroud MP Siobhan Baillie met with actress and comedian Emily Atack in parliament last week to discuss how to stop online abuse and cyber flashing.

Ms Baillie is campaigning for social media users to be able to only interact with verified accounts as much online hate is anonymous and difficult to track.

She is pushing the Government to include measures to verify social media accounts in its upcoming Online Safety Bill.  Emily came to Westminster to tell her story and support the campaign.

Baillie was joined at the meeting by Stephen Kinsella and David Babbs from Clean Up The Internet and Matt Hawkins from Compassion In Politics. She is working with both organisations on the campaign.

Fellow MP Maria Miller was also there as she is campaigning to stop cyberflashing.

The actress spoke powerfully about the online abuse she suffers every single day.  She explained it causes trauma and has made her question whether she should change how she uses social media, even though it is such a big part of her job. 

Emily has two million followers across her Instagram and Twitter accounts and uses them to communicate with her fans and let them know when she is touring.  

“Listening to Emily’s experiences made me really angry,” said Ms Baillie. “Nobody should have to put up with that, let alone a young woman who explained that she lives alone and the abuse got worse through the lockdowns.

“It is brave of her to come and see us and talk about what is happening. She is cyber flashed a great deal and speaking out has probably led to even more of it and more abuse.

“Anonymous abuse and anonymous cyber flashing need to be stopped. It’s really scary not knowing where such disgusting images are coming from as women just go about their daily lives. 

“At the moment, tracking down the people behind the anonymous abuse and cyber flashing can take far too long, if it happens at all.  

“After my own experiences of online abuse and hearing from Stroud residents and children who have suffered, like the wonderful girls at Stroud High School, I am determined to make a change in this area. 

“We need to give social media users the opportunity to verify their social media accounts and only be followed and follow verified accounts.”

Baillie explained she does not want to ban anonymous accounts as they play a role for those in danger to be able to communicate. She just wants a choice for users.

“By knowing that a real person is behind an account and that they can be tracked down to be prosecuted if they abuse online is, I believe, an effective way to help clean up the internet and limit the hate,” she added. “It won’t eliminate it but it will act as a deterrent and make it far more difficult to bully, harass and abuse.”

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