UK Politicians Call For Limits and Bans on Anonymous Social Media Accounts

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By Lukas Mikelionis | 7:32 am, July 14, 2017
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UK politicians are floating the idea of banning anonymous social media accounts following the abuse they have received on a daily basis.

On Wednesday, the British parliament gathered to debate “abuse and intimidation” that happened during the recent general election campaign. A number of MPs shared their experience online, and a constant flow of harassment and abuse from anonymous social media accounts.

Diane Abbott, the Labour Party shadow Home Secretary, shared the barrage of insults she received online during the election campaign, including the use of the N-word and other other racially-charged remarks.

On the issue of anonymity, she said: “I think the rise in the use of online media has turbocharged abuse … As well as the rise of online media, it is helped by anonymity. People would not come up to me and attack me for being a [N-word] in public, but they do it online.”

Conservative MP David Jones slammed social media as “antisocial media” and suggested such media companies have “a lot to answer for” for allowing people, especially on Twitter, to “clothe themselves” in anonymity.

He said: “The anonymity in which a lot of participants on Twitter clothe themselves encourages the sort of behaviour that we have heard about today. Logging on to Twitter nowadays is much like wading through sewage; it is a deeply unpleasant experience.

Interestingly, as BuzzFeed reported, Jones is known for having an anonymous social media account.

Labour MP Martin Whitfield, meanwhile, asked whether “now is the time to ban anonymous social media accounts”, echoing a suggestion by a member of the Scottish National Party last week.

SNP MEP Alyn Smith urged the party to create a code of conduct against abuse that prohibits any party member from using an anonymous social media account.

“I would like to see a specific code of conduct in my own party with four or five simple points that everyone agrees on, including a ban on the kind of anonymous accounts which seem to enable people to be so unpleasant,” he told The Herald newspaper.

The calls for a prohibition on anonymous social media accounts sparked backlash on Twitter, with some pointing out how important anonymity is for certain groups and people.

As political blog Guido Fawkes notes:

This idea is obviously preposterous as it would bring an end to the much-lowed anonymous crowd-sourced account EyeSpyMP, or Photoshop wizard General Boles. More importantly, the removal of anonymity exposes politically engaged social media users operating under hostile regimes to serious dangers. The @Raqqa_SL account saw a team of 17 anonymous Syrian activists expose life under ISIS. Do Whitfield and Smith think their identities should have been revealed? Almost as if these idiots haven’t thought their dense idea through.