Laws must be strengthened to prevent online trolls from targeting MPs with racist and sexual abuse to prevent future generations being put off politics for good, according to Tulip Siddiq.
The Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn in north London was speaking out following the remarks made by Diane Abbott, Britain’s first black MP, who has received a torrent of abuse on social media in recent years.
Abbott, who said it was almost a daily occurrence being called a b***h and n*****, believes there is a case for a parliamentary inquiry into new rules to stop abusive comments on websites like Facebook and Twitter.
Siddiq, who has received death threats, said she supported Abbott’s proposal. “I believe the onus is squarely on
the government to pressure social media companies into acting upon this abuse.
“Laws need to be strengthened and action needs to be forthcoming, otherwise we risk future generations of women and BME citizens being put off politics for good,” she told Eastern Eye.
The new mother described the online abuse as a “deeply unpleasant” aspect of the job, which has become a reality she has learned to deal with.
She was even targeted for becoming a mum, and told “make up your mind, you are either a mother or an MP, you can’t do both”.
“The job we have been elected to do and the needs of our constituents are far more important than caving to those who would wish to push women out of the public sphere,” Siddiq added.
Bradford West MP Naz Shah told Eastern Eye she had received anonymous tweets saying: “I wish you’d see your kids die in your arms tonight,” along with being threatened with rape on Facebook.
“I’ve had people say I’m going to end up like (murdered politician) Jo Cox if I’m not careful. I’ve had death threats during the Samia Shahid (honour killing) case, it’s extremely
common,” she said.
Within just five hours of launching her election campaign in 2015, two fake Twitter accounts had been set up in Shah’s name.
The Labour MP said she has had to discuss security issues with her young children because of the threats: “After what happened to Jo Cox, you have to be careful.”
Scottish National Party representative Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said she had been working with the police to deal with specific incidents of online racial and sexual abuse targeted towards her.
Along with other MPs, Ahmed-Sheikh has also been involved in the Reclaim the Internet campaign, which challenges abuse online to address the issue.
“I believe there’s a widespread desire now for MPs from all parties to work together to tackle this serious issue,” she said.
“I’m still proud to serve as an MP, but we should be able to carry out our responsibilities without this abuse. That’s why I support Diana Abbott’s calls for an independent
parliamentary enquiry into this issue.”
Ahmed-Sheikh added she hoped trolling would not discourage Asian and black women from politics as it was more important than ever for representatives to be more reflective of the communities they serve.