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Plea to tackle online homophobia, sexism and racism

PUBLISHED: 19:03 29 June 2019

Rev Andrew Dotchin and Sandy Martin MP at Suffolk Pride 2019  Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Rev Andrew Dotchin and Sandy Martin MP at Suffolk Pride 2019 Picture: RACHEL EDGE

RACHEL EDGE

Social media needs a "clean up" to tackle online abuse and discrimination, Ipswich's MP has said.

MPs are due to debate making online homophobia a specific offence on Monday, July 1.

But Labour's Sandy Martin, who has represented Ipswich since 2017, believes the focus should be on stamping out all kinds of discrimination against race, sexuality, gender and others.

He also believes the world's biggest communication companies should take the lead, rather than the government having to make laws.

Mr Martin said: "I think as a society we really need to clean up the way social media and online communications work.

"There are lots of things the big companies need to do to protect people from awful and outrageous attacks.

"It isn't just homophobia that is an issue, it's sexism, ableism, anti-semitism - some women are being attacked just for being women."

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Under the Communications Act 2003, it is an offence sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character".

The debate comes following an online petition, which gained 152,000 signatures, started by television personality Bobby Norris, who said: "As a gay man I find it devastating how members of the LGBT community are still subjected to homophobic abuse online.

"Just because I am on TV I don't think that makes it acceptable to be sent homophobic messages and comments on social media platforms.

"I won't go into detail as to the various names I have been called, but this should not be acceptable and can have an impact on people's mental health and has certainly helped in making my anxiety and low self-esteem worse by receiving them."

Mr Martin added: "There are a lot of odd people out there and we need to make sure they are not being enabled."

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman added: "Suffolk Constabulary takes every report of hate crime very seriously and investigates incidents thoroughly.

"In partnership with Suffolk County Council, a hate crime working group was set up in Suffolk in 2018.

"Supported by our diverse communities co-ordinators further awareness training has been rolled out alongside outreach work with those directly affected by hate crime."

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