Ac­tion is needed to com­bat on­line abuse

Topic of the week: the scourge of cy­ber­bul­ly­ing

Sunday Herald - - 19.03.17 EDITORIAL & LETTERS -

I WISH to com­mend you on your well-timed ar­ti­cles re­gard­ing the in­crease of on­line abuse, and your de­mand that Po­lice Scot­land acts quickly and gets of­fend­ers be­fore the courts (Po­lice in­ves­ti­gate hor­rific cat­a­logue of threats and abuse against Stur­geon, Dug­dale and David­son also vic­tims of cam­paign of hate, News; Jail all crim­i­nal on­line abusers, Sun­day Her­ald view, March 12).

I wish you well on that, but fear that cy­ber­crime can only flour­ish if we fail to up­date leg­is­la­tion to com­bat it. Last year, slightly over 50 per cent of crime in Scot­land had an in­ter­net ba­sis and it has, in­deed, be­come the so­cial me­dia “Wild West”.

Every day we read about cy­ber­bul­ly­ing, re­venge porn, trolling and vir­tual mob­bing, and vul­ner­a­ble young­sters be­ing driven to sui­cide by it. We have a young gen­er­a­tion who see noth­ing wrong in send­ing in­de­cent im­ages to each other, which they can with im­punity.

Politi­cians are the vic­tims of anony­mous trolls, though at least the high-pro­file ones like Stur­geon, Dug­dale and David­son can ex­pect the Po­lice Scot­land cy­ber­crime depart­ment to take up their com­plaint with Face­book or Twit­ter.

Leg­is­la­tion, much of which re­lates to print me­dia and pre­dates the in­ter­net, must be up­dated. Your ar­ti­cles were very wel­come, but you must con­tinue to ap­ply the pres­sure. John V Lloyd In­verkei­thing THE Sun­day Her­ald is to be com­mended on its cam­paign to tackle on­line abuse. It is par­tic­u­larly trou­bling that some of the worst of it is aimed at women who have achieved so much, whether through public ser­vice in the world of pol­i­tics or in other high-pro­file roles in busi­ness or the arts. Those want­ing to en­cour­age their daugh­ters to make the most of their lives will won­der what im­pact such vile at­tacks might have on their life choices. We all owe a debt of grat­i­tude to women in the public eye, from the three lead­ers of Scot­land’s po­lit­i­cal par­ties to those like JK Rowl­ing, for demon­strat­ing how to re­main dig­ni­fied in ris­ing above such abuse.

Some will blame so­cial me­dia for pro­vid­ing a plat­form for mind­less com­ments; oth­ers will draw com­fort from the knowledge that the worst ex­am­ples come from a small mi­nor­ity. Yet there is some re­spon­si­bil­ity on all who take part in po­lit­i­cal de­bate to show care in the tone and choice of language used.

Mod­er­at­ing the language we all use in mak­ing strongly held views is one im­por­tant el­e­ment in low­er­ing the tem­per­a­ture of ex­changes, par­tic­u­larly on the most sen­si­tive of is­sues such as in­de­pen­dence. There are some com­men­ta­tors on­line and in the press whose rhetoric could be wrongly or rightly in­ter­preted as en­cour­ag­ing a more fer­vent re­ac­tion. If we can all seek to re­tain a clear sense of re­spect for oth­ers, no mat­ter if we agree with them, it would surely help. Keith How­ell West Lin­ton

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