Dealing With Twitter Trolls

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Mhairi Hunter

Ungagged asked me to expand a bit on a recent twitter thread on social media abuse and I’m happy to do so. I emphasise these are just my personal views but I hope they are helpful. I have made all the mistakes over the years so you don’t have to.

I have been on twitter since 2010. I’ve seen it get bigger and uglier and been through various stages of trying to handle abuse from challenging it, to RTing it, to blocking it and finally muting it. For me, muting it is the best solution. I’ll tell you why.

Challenging it is pointless. Someone abusing you on twitter knows they’re being horrible so there’s no point in telling them that, they want to upset you and make you angry. If you challenge them they will only get worse. The same goes for RTing abuse. I know people sometimes do this to highlight it, but this simply invites other users to join in and participate in a nasty squalid fight that will just leave you drained and depressed.

Blocking people can also make them worse, I’ve had people set up new accounts so they can continue to have a go at me because I blocked them. I do block people in some circumstances but I find muting people is much better at just getting rid of them from my timeline and mentions.

I’ve muted many hundreds of people and twitter is much better for that. I have muted people on the No side and I have muted people on the Yes side. In my opinion a lot of nonsense is talked about the relationship between political positioning and social media abuse. The fact is you get toxic people across the board. Twitter gives you the option to mute them, so use that option. Mute them, forget about them. If they really cross the line, block and report them. And remember – on your twitter you decide what the line is.

If someone threatens you or another person don’t hesitate to go to the police. It may not result in action being taken there and then but you are still providing intelligence which may enable action to be taken at a future point if the perpetrator is following a pattern of behaviour.

I have also thought about my own use of twitter. Quote-tweeting is something I do less and less now due to the way it can instigate pile-ons if you have an above-average number of followers. I realised I was guilty of that after I quote-tweeted what I thought was a particularly silly comment from a political journalist, poking fun at him. My tweet wasn’t malicious or intended to be. I was just taking the piss. But a lot of the replies to my tweet copied in the journalist, were quite abusive and it just went on and on and on.

Coincidentally there was a recent discussion on twitter about why a well-known unionist blogger had been blocked by a large number of SNP MPs. I had blocked this chap myself after he RTd me, leading to a stream of nasties in my mentions. (If you want to stop someone being able to RT you directly, you need to block them).

Probably the blogger didn’t intend to set the flying monkeys on me – any more than I had intended to set them on the journalist – but just didn’t really think about it before quote-tweeting something he saw as silly. We all need to learn that lesson. If you instigate pile-ons, either wittingly or unwittingly, people are entitled to block you. And, for the avoidance of doubt, MPs are people.

I also have to mention twitter clyping in this context – this describes the situation where someone tweets a comment about another person and a different user replies @ing that person in. If the original tweeter wanted to @ the person into their tweet they would have done so. Don’t do it for them because it can result in a confrontation they don’t want.

Inevitably we come to the vexed subject of misogyny. There has been a great deal written about the level of sexual abuse and threats sent to women so I won’t add too much to it. It’s ugly stuff. And the more high-profile a woman is, the worse it gets.

Some may think that high-profile twitter targets never actually have to read the abuse directed at them but they (or people around them) do have to, because they need to assess if they contain any credible threats. The recent Westminster Hall debate which allowed women MPs to talk about the horrific abuse they received was, I hope, an eye opener for some. And, as in life, it’s worse if you are a black woman, a lesbian, a Jew, because misogynists are so often bigots too.

Plus, for all women, twitter tends to have the same double standards as you get in real life – men are assertive, women are aggressive, men are confident, women are arrogant, men are witty, women are silly and childish. And be careful about telling jokes – some men really don’t like it!

So why do I stay on this hellsite? Well, for one thing I rather enjoy being silly and childish on twitter. Twitter at its best is joyous, I have had so many good laughs over the years. For another, I have genuinely made some good pals who I would miss if I left – and that applies to people on both sides of the constitutional divide. So I’m sticking around with my mute button at the ready. Otherwise I’d have to go back to facebook and that would be a fate worse than death.

The MSM, the SNP and the Yes movement

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Mhairi Hunter

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the UK and Scottish media is mainly hostile towards the SNP. But that hasn’t stopped the SNP. The media doesn’t decide who wins elections in Scotland, the people do.

Since the SNP won power the media environment in Scotland has become marginally more favourable. But at the same time distrust of the media from SNP and Yes supporters has grown stronger.

There are some who think the answer to media bias is for the SNP to simply disengage from the MSM. They should consider what the consequence would be. It wouldn’t end the phenomenon known as #SNPBad. Rather, it would mean there was nothing but #SNPBad as our point of view wouldn’t be heard at all. I can’t see how that would be an improvement.

And sometimes I find myself reading a story described as #SNPBad and thinking hold on a minute, there’s a valid point here. The job of any government will never be complete, there will always be problems that need fixed and it’s perfectly legitimate for journalists to highlight them.

Many journalists see their job as holding the powerful to account and the SNP is in power. But the fact that we’re in power in a UK context makes it a wee bit tricky. We’re both in power and not in power, in control yet not in control. It’s more layered and complex than many journalists acknowledge and, perhaps unsurprisingly, lines become blurred and readers become enraged instead of engaged.
We do need to recognise the media is not a single entity. There are good journalists and bad journalists. There are a few who are essentially professional trolls. And there are many journalists who write stories which are good for the SNP and also write stories which are bad for the SNP. That’s just the nature of journalism.

None of this means I don’t understand and share the frustration of people infuriated by sloppy, one-dimensional inaccurate stories about the SNP or Scottish Government in the media. I do.

We should always highlight falsehoods and make sure as many people as possible are made aware of them. And we should also do as much as we can to support new Scottish media.

But I still think SNP supporters can ascribe to the MSM a power it doesn’t have. We are not victims. We are in government and we should have more confidence in ourselves.

Equally, I think Scottish journalists and editors ought to reflect on the fact that a large chunk of the population feels marginalised and alienated from a media which should encompass the diversity of opinion in Scotland. That is not healthy or sustainable.

A degree of scepticism from readers is healthy, however, and should be encouraged. I’d like to see all of us apply the same healthy scepticism we bring to our own media to all media. If you believe the BBC is institutionally programmed to promote the interests of the British Establishment – as I do – then that is even more true of broadcasters like RT. Let’s apply the same critical analysis to their output.

The current debate around fake news, social media and tribal epistemology (which describes the situation where the perceived truth or falseness of a statement depends entirely on who is making it) is not only pertinent for journalists and commentators, it’s very pertinent for us too. I believe that understanding the danger of this phenomenon is crucial for the Yes movement as we gear up to make a renewed case for independence.

Many people in Scotland still feel that the world has gone a bit bonkers and that it’s difficult to know who and what to believe. That condition applies to people who voted Yes and No alike. They are nervous about the future.

In my view that makes it even more vital that the case for independence is made in a rational, calm and evidence-based way. We need to persuade undecided voters – to earn their trust, not scare them away. Rather than absorbing a tribal approach to politics we need to recognise tribalism is our enemy.
I think that means we need to be careful with the language we use when discussing the media. It doesn’t mean we need to be less critical of inaccurate reports but if you find yourself railing against the failing biased phoney fake news media you should probably stop and have a wee lie-down.

The next Yes campaign really needs to be a serious affair, in contrast to the political pantomime of the past few years in the UK. It needs to offer complex solutions to complex problems, it needs to be pluralist, it needs to be diverse, it needs to be inclusive, it needs to be rigorous, it needs to be honest, above all it needs to be grown-up.

In an ideal world a grown-up campaign would be covered by a grown-up media. I’m not holding my breath on that one. But the fact we can’t control how the media will cover it doesn’t change the way we need to campaign. And we need to campaign that way now.

Right to be forgotten

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

By Laura Martin

 

On the 13th April the High Court in England and Wales ruled on two legal actions brought against Google for failing to remove search results relating to the historical criminal convictions of two businessmen. The case of NT1 & NT2 vs Google is described as a landmark ruling being the first time that the English Courts have tested the principles of the ‘right to be forgotten’.

The decision of Justice Warby is controversial and re-ignites the debate about the purposes of the ‘right to be forgotten’. The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in May 2014 that data appearing in online search results which were inadequate, irrelevant, excessive or outdated be subject to erasure upon request to the search engine operator. This ‘right to be forgotten’ is underpinned by our fundamental Charter rights of data protection and our human right to privacy.

The CJEU ruled that the ‘right to be forgotten’ is not absolute and can be denied when the request conflicts with other rights (like speech) and interests (accessing accurate information). There is much concern over whether the High Court struck an appropriate balance between the fundamental rights of the businessmen, the interests of Google, and the wider public interest.

Internet search engines play a key role in the dissemination of information and facilitating communication. The ability to request erasure of data can be seen as impeding the critical function of search engines whilst unduly impacting our fundamental right to freedom of expression. Despite accusations to the contrary, the ‘right to be forgotten’ does not enable individuals to “re-write history”, it only enables individual to request their data be de-listed or hidden from search engine results. The information itself remained both on the Web, in Google’s index, and is available via the many other possible searches. Google also have an economic interest in maintaining complete search engine results. If the press had discovered that a private search engine operator had removed details of criminal convictions, there would be public outcry and backlash.

The businessmen’s data protection and privacy rights were also considered. The anonymous businessmen, NT1 and NT2argued that the search results were inaccurate and outdated contrary to data protection principles and disproportionately impacting on their ability to develop personal and business relations which are protected under the fundamental right of privacy.

Public interest considerations are vital when ruling whether the ‘right to be forgotten’ should be granted. Justice Warby afforded significant deliberation to the nature and scope of the public interest in having access to search results on the criminal convictions of the businessmen. NT1 and NT2 had been convicted of criminal offences over a decade ago and their convictions had been considered as “spent” under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Despite the purposes of criminal law being served, does there remain a public interest in the Google search results? Justice Warby believed so. The judge suggested that the public interest was heightened as NT1 failed to accept his guilt and show remorse in relation to his convictions. This reasoning undermines the purposes of criminal law and is unfair as both NT1 and NT2 were accepted as being rehabilitated. The existence of the search results subjected the businessmen to some form of additional punishment not prescribed by the State.

But some will point to the heinous crimes committed by individuals and argue that they deserve all forms of punishment and should not be afforded to hide their criminality. Rightly so, and the ‘right to be forgotten’ accepts that the public interest in maintaining search results fluctuates depending upon a variety of factors. The ‘right to be forgotten’ requires a case-by-case assessment of the public interest, allowing for the peculiarities and nature of crime to be considered. In this case, both businessmen had committed generally low level crime and cannot be considered as dangerous individuals. NT1 was convicted of conspiracy to account falsely whereas NT2 was convicted for conspiracy to intercept communications. The majority of requests are made in relation to low level crime committed by individuals in their youth.

Others have argued that by virtue of breaking the law, individuals should carry all the consequences of their misdeeds. Why should offenders be afforded the same rights and liberties as upstanding citizens? The reality is that criminal activity is inextricably linked with social depravation. Blanket denial of all ‘right to be forgotten’ requests of offenders, will disproportionately impact the lower class who make up the majority of requests for criminal convictions to be removed. Public policy and social justice considerations must be taken into account when individuals argue for blanket denial of this right to all offenders. Although these circumstances do not relate to NT1 and NT2 who can afford to challenge Google anonymously, denying the ‘right to be forgotten’ to all offenders who have spent their convictions will not only undermine the purposes of criminal law and affect the purposes of rehabilitation but would also disproportionately impact the poor.

NT2 won his legal action against Google with the High Court accepting that his data protection and privacy rights trumped competing interests. NT1 was denied his ‘right to be forgotten’ as his crime was regarded as “more serious” with his failure to show remorse amplified the public interest against de-linking the search results. The application of the ‘right to be forgotten’ to criminal convictions remains controversial. It requires much more than balancing freedom of expression, the right to privacy and data protection, and the public interest (which will always be difficult to identify). The case of NT1 and NT2 also engages public policy concerns and requires consideration of the underpinning purposes of criminal law when deciding whether an ex-criminal should be afforded ‘the right to be forgotten’.

 

Weesht For Indy – Not…

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Weesht For Indy – Not…

I am part of a political group that agrees to disagree on pretty much all of the razors of political analysis that cause splits, tantrums and forked tongued statements.  Ungagged is a website and political podcast that has pretty much every left view somewhere in its archive, said by people ranging from Trotskyists, Tankies, Blairites, Anarchists, Greens, Nationalists – all from the left spectrum of politics.

We respect the fact that others going to sometimes say, organise or promote an aspect of left politics we don’t agree with on the podcast, or written on the website.  And the fact that quite a few of us are from different parts of the world with different experiences, or different parts of Britain and Ireland, with different experiences, or different parts of Scotland with different experiences, informs us, rather than divides us.

My political background is as complex as anyone’s, but to summarise it, I was brought up in Northern Ireland in a protestant/unionist community and found myself at odds with that community.  I read literature and had experiences in Northern Ireland that convinced me the UK was not conducive to equality – in any way or aspect – and when i moved to Scotland I became involved with left and pro-independence politics.  I was a member of the SSP EC in the late 2000’s; co-opted again during indyref, and elected again onto the EC, twice. I left the SSP in late 2015.

I don’t see independence as a tactic.  I don’t see independence as being about my identity.  I don’t see independence as an income stream. I see independence as a way to break a state that at present is reinventing its imperialist past as somehow glorious – a state that is “dripping with blood from head to foot.” A state that is a key block, still even in its weakened state, in the curtain wall of capitalism.  A wall that hems in the poor and working class, while the rich and corporate world can fly free, borne on wings built with our bones, fueled by our blood and fed to obesity while we starve.

So…

There is an attitude in the Yes movement at present of, “disagreement is not healthy,” or “don’t challenge people – we are all on the same side.” I loathe that. That is nonsense, and designed to shut down debate, just as those on the left who prevaricate and hide the analysis they share within their particular cult shut down debate.

In order to come to agreement as to what sort of Scotland we are fighting for, we have to disagree, hone our arguments etc. Thesis, antithesis, synthesis.  And both those who tell us to shoosh for Indy, and those who hide their true analysis and hide behind their moderately successful tactic of the past independence referendum are, mistakenly in my opinion, really doing their best to stop education through engagement.  They are building walls to a synthesis of feet on the streets, together, during the next campaign.

“Shoosh for indy,” seems to be the order of the day, not “unite the diversity,” though many of those telling us to wheest cry, “why is the movement not as accepting of difference as it was between 2011-14?” and,  “Why cant we all just raise a flag of truce and deliver a saltire to each door?”

I strongly disagree with some people who want independence, or those who at this juncture feel it is “a good tactic.” I strongly agree with some others.

Some I disagree with, I would trust with my life. Some who seem to “agree with me,” I really trust no more than crocodiles resting just below the water.

And this attitude is coming from all sides. If you criticise the ultra nationalists careering around social media, expect to be trolled. Raise points about people making money (rather than raising funds for expenses) from independence, and you are a traitor. And criticise some of the left “analysis” and you are accused of all sorts.  Let’s not, however class all of those we disagree with in the same category. For example, I have recently seen criticism of Darren McGarvey after his interview with Owen Jones. I don’t entirely agree with Darren, but I totally respect the guy (I honestly went from a position were I didn’t rate him, to once having met him, perhaps “getting him,” to now feeling, as a teacher concerned with ACES, the guy is pretty cool). He is absolutely honest in what he is saying… Which is where I get annoyed by some other folk who write about or speak about, independence or social change or socialism -their hiding behind words and “analysis,” as if those words and analysis are objective and self evident. Hiding behind analysis as “objective,” is deceiving (and in some cases this is exactly what the writers and speakers intend). All analysis is subjective. Darren never pretends his writing or words are anything other than his opinion or experience.

The pretence at objectivity from left individuals and small organisations is breathtaking.  And the pretence that what some of them are doing is for the common good is just damned depressing.  The narcissism of some just makes me want to run as far away from some of the left in the independence movement, but Scotland an the independence media being so small, they seem to be everywhere.

The great thing about the Yes movement between 2011 and 2014 is that it was allowed to shift and expand and then it took on a life outside the original Yes Scotland “diversity plan.” After September ‘14, there were statements and manifestos drawn up in our name, without our input; read out in halls and we were all expected to cheer.

I am a democratic radical socialist. And I am not part of a cadre or vanguard or group with vested interests in how the campaign takes shape and is run. I have always, within the movement and when I was in a political party, spoke my mind and called out dishonesty and worse.

I, like many, have views about what should happen post indyref. And I, like many, have views on how we should as campaigners and activists, be represented in the press, and on political bodies growing up within the movement. And at the moment there are far too many self appointed spokespeople for me. Few of whom speak for a movement of butterflies, and a majority of whom seem to want to stick the butterflies in boxes and tell them to shoosh for unity etc. while they tell us what to think.

To argue, to disagree and to call out tactics and vanguards and manels and pyramid schemes seems to cause great ire.

The people who do are the ones I trust.

V’s Fee, East Kilbride Yes and Manels

Reading Time: 8 minutesHow Victoria Pearson, a writer in Bedfordshire who works for Scottish Pro-Indy podcast Ungagged, ended up being trolled as a result of being caught in the crossfire of the twitter storm about all male panels.

Reading Time: 8 minutes
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Victoria Pearson

I often think of twitter as a big noisy pub. Your mates are all in there, but so are loads of people you don’t know. You’ve got really interesting, passionate and important conversations going on in some corners, people snogging in others, people playing music or showing off what they had for tea, arguing over who would win in a fight between The Hulk and Mr Hyde. It’s a big pub, I’ll give you that, and it can be rough at times, despite the champagne guzzlers in the corner, trying to seem “authentic” and down with the crowd, but I’ve always felt very much at home there.
This weekend I learned that, much like in the pub, there are times when a snatch of conversation can be overheard, misinterpreted, and spread through Chinese whispers until it is totally divorced from any of its original meaning. Unlike the pub, where it can all be sorted with some yelling, a bit of shoving, an admission that I love you really and a kebab on the way home, twitter can quickly spill over into real life, and cause real and lasting damage.
By now anyone who is reading this has probably heard about the event in East Kilbride, that had an all male panel. They got a lot of flak for it, perhaps, to be fair, disproportionately so, given they had featured an all female panel not too long before. During the backlash though, the people running the EKsaysYES twitter account, who were running/promoting the event, decided to give a masterclass in how not to respond to critics, becoming increasingly irate and aggressive with women asking why they weren’t represented.
As anyone who runs a business or community group account knows, the best way to deal with any criticism – even if you personally disagree with it – is to thank your complainant for their input, take it on board, and say you’ll do better. It stops things running out of hand. But I digress.
My involvement in the furore was periphery at best, but the blowback was staggering, and is still ongoing. A dear friend, valued colleague and comrade was involved in the conversation, mentioning that she hadn’t seen a call by EK Yes for female speakers – that she was surprised by that since she is in many Indy groups and women’s groups online, as well as a follower of the group itself’s page. She said if she had seen the call, she would have rallied her friends and acquaintances and gotten them some female speakers.
Instead of replying with “Thanks for the offer, we’d love your help for next time” they – rather condescendingly, in my opinion — responded “But what groups or parties would they represent? Remember we are looking for independent media specialists.”
This is where I came in. No knowledge of the background or what’s going on at all, I’m responding purely to that tweet. I ask if they mean to imply there are no female independent media specialists? Because in my experience, they are the creative driving force behind the alt-media industry.
Someone else responded with “And you’d know this by virtue of the fact you’re a woman?” and the EKsaysYES account liked the response, which shocked me. It seemed unnecessarily aggressive, and an odd tweet for a professional to endorse. But I responded that no, my knowledge was based on being a woman in the independent media industry, and being lucky enough to work with hundreds of amazing women as a result. I went off to make a cuppa, thinking my part in it was done.
When I returned to my keyboard 2 minutes later, I had 4 responses from EKsaysYes, each more aggressive in tone than the last, all demanding I go and speak for them in February.
I’m a professional writer, and I was utterly shocked at being approached in such an unprofessional manner. Not only was I being yelled at in a thread with over 15 other people tagged in, the person demanding I speak for them had clearly not even looked at my profile first. You see, I’m English, I live in South East England, I’ve never set foot in Scotland in my life. There were dozens of Scottish women – who have put far more hours into Independence than I have– literally in EK’s mentions saying they’d like to be heard, but instead they chose to demand that I speak, to a Scottish group about Scottish Independence, a round trip of over 600miles away. My professional information is not at all hidden, just googling my name would bring all of this info up instantly. I was staggered.
So I replied in a way that I thought was blatantly obviously sarcasm with “DM me and I’ll send you my fee list.”
From the reaction, you’d think I stripped off naked in the high street and started skinning puppies in the name of Nuggan.
EK responded along the lines that they doubt I even know what I’m talking about (they were asked later, by someone else, if they thought that due to my gender, my nationality, or simply because they didn’t like my attitude, but they declined to respond) and their friend from earlier in the thread started to go through my blog, ridiculing me because I once wrote a single article about menstrual cups as an alternative to tampons and sanitary towels for people who didn’t want to give money to prolife organisations through the tampon tax – all the while demanding to know who I thought I was, and who I worked for.

 

I told them Google is their friend, because honestly why should I trouble myself to present my credentials to people who can’t be bothered to look me up for themselves? Had they scrolled back through my timeline just a tiny bit, they’d have seen that a few days before I tweeted how much I love working on the Pro-Independence podcast and alt-media org Ungagged, tagging in many of the people who also work there, as well as the Ungagged twitter account itself.
I was laughing at the time, because, had they clicked on the ‘about me’ section on the blog they were trashing, they’d have seen my bio, where I clearly state that I will write, speak, or give social media advice for food and that my rates go up the ruder you are.

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The other link on my twitter bio leads to my Amazon page, which states “Victoria Pearson lives behind a keyboard in rural Bedfordshire.” This information is not hard to find, and, as someone who has had to gather speakers for events myself, I think it’s pretty basic to click links in someone’s bio information before inviting them to speak.
The fury unleashed by my very much tongue in cheek comment (believe me, if I charged a pound for every hour I put into Scottish Independence in my role as Web Producer for Ungagged, I wouldn’t be in the bottom 6% of uk earners[listen from 1 hr 7min mark]) has been completely disproportionate, and quite frightening.
Another person in the thread – who had been on the panel – took my words as a personal attack on him (I still don’t understand why, as I wasn’t criticising the panel or event at all) and became infuriated with me – scarily so. He berated me for hours over it, saying that he would never charge to speak for independence, that he had had to give up his time, time with his partner, etc to speak.
I’m guessing he wouldn’t have had to find childcare for 4 children or have his partner lose 2 days wages to travel a 620 mile, 18 hour round trip and spend around £800 to get there and back either, but that really is beside the point.
He eventually accused me of bullying him. Somewhat ironic given he was helping to fan the flames of a witchhunt against me, but I still immediately told him it definitely wasn’t my intention to be unkind, that I had no issue with him and if he could please show me where I had been rude, I’d gladly apologise. He stopped replying, because I hadn’t been rude, unkind, or displayed bullying behaviour once.
I then went to bed early, ready to take my four children out the next day. I assumed my part in this melodrama was done. I came home the next evening , tired but happy from taking my youngest to see Santa for the very first time, to find all hell had broken loose on my timeline in my absence.
EK had deleted tweets, breaking the thread so that casual readers couldn’t see the many tweets I followed my fee tweet up with, clarifying that had I wanted to speak – which I do not- at best I would’ve asked for a sandwich and help crowdfunding my train fare. They then screenshotted what was left, making it seem like they had asked me to speak and I demanded a fee without any other interaction. They were telling people that I had asked to speak and then demanded money.
I want it made crystal clear that I did not and would not ask to speak to a Scottish audience about Independence. I’ve repeatedly said for the last two years that I refuse, point blank, to Britsplain Independence to Scottish people. The very last thing anyone in Scotland needs or wants is yet another English voice telling them what to do. I’ve been a writer for 15 years, and I’ve written about independence once, for Ungagged, entirely from an outsiders point of view. I very much see my role in the fight for Independence as providing a boost and a platform for voices within the movement who don’t usually get a chance to be heard – whether that’s because of class, race, gender, disability or sexuality or any other barrier. I work very hard to do that. I do not speak for people, I pass them the microphone.
What should have been no more than a twitter spat that should have blown over in a day at most had turned into huge accounts sharing that screenshot with demands to find out where I live, and who I work for. Screenshots of my account posted with the caption “A liar.”
The threads spawning from them were vile and filled with paranoid fantasies that would be more at home on conspiracy websites than coming out of the mouths of supposedly serious commentators. I’m mi5, I’m a “media agent from the BBC”, a Russian bot, a Unionist, Momentum, RISE. I’m deliberately harming the Independence movement. I should’ve been grateful to be asked. I should pay them for the privilege of speaking. I’m a liar. I’m trying to build a cosy career for myself off the back of Independence.
An actual article appeared in The Herald, conflating several points and muddying the waters still further, underlining the idea that I’m profiteering even more. The hornets nest, just starting to calm, was kicked again, starting the cycle afresh, leading a certain writer with a twitter following of over 12 thousand people to spend an entire day making snide comments about me without using my name, and retweeting nasty comments about my supposed motivations.
This has led me to feeling very unsafe. My twitter account is public, my profile picture is my face, my handle my full name. My full name appears several times in my cover photo. The fact I have 4 children is in my bio.
Being so open on twitter is a doubled edged sword. On the one hand, it has made the veiled threats of doxing and the threat that implies very frightening, not just from a perspective of my own personal safety, but that of my husband and children, and my other relatives and friends who may be caught up in crossfire by association. After all, the people attacking me clearly don’t value getting all of the facts before jumping in feet first.
On the other hand, the best of the Indy movement, who know me well online, have come out in my defence, knowing as they do that the picture painted of me is inaccurate, unfair and damaging. The Yes movement I know – the inclusive, outward looking, socially aware movement that wants an independent country in order to make it better for everyone – have been amazing, setting the record straight where they can and urging others to do their research. Unfortunately this has led to blowback for a lot of them and for that I’m truly sorry. Their solidarity should not cost them in that way.
So what can we learn from this? I’m not sure. I am certain this behaviour is not representative of the East Kilbride Yes community group. I refuse to believe people working so hard for the good of others would condone the harassment, abuse and stalking behaviour incited by the person behind their twitter account. This kind of bullying is not only bad for their group, but the movement as a whole. If they’d like to apologise, delete their defamatory tweets and ask their followers to stop attacking me, I’ll gladly accept and move forward for the sake of the movement I believe strongly in.
I know the people calling for my blood are not representative of this wonderful movement in any way. But something does have to be done about the toxicity of the narrative here. This kind of behaviour is not ok. And for the very first time in my 8 years on twitter, I’m considering taking legal action.