End this culture of anonymous online personal attacks

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Sir, the last few weeks have seen the highlighting of online threats to journalists, sports figures and elected representatives.

These can no longer be tolerated by the authorities.

It has long been apparent that too many people see social media and other online forums as a legitimate location for expressing, typically anonymously, vile and personal views about people solely on the basis that they have put forward a differing opinion or failed to win a particular prize.

Those who would never dare express such views in public have long felt comfortable – too comfortable – about expressing them from behind a keyboard.

This reflects a level of intolerance and anger which is already deeply alarming, not least as it is reflective of too many people with no sense of what their responsibilities are to others in a civilised and democratic society.

When this, however, turns still more sinister, we have to be clear that the line at which the authorities of law and order must act has been crossed. While I congratulate those victims who have raised it, we all need to accept fully that no one in their line of work – whether in the media, in sport or in politics – should ever be subject to wanton personal abuse and far less to outright and sinister threats.

There is in fact no reason whatsoever that people behind a keyboard should not be held to the same standards of reasonable conduct and debate that they would be held to in a public arena.

People carrying out such abuse and such threats need to be reminded that they can easily be traced, prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and barred from ever being able to repeat their actions.

Ian James Parsley, Newtownabbey