Who might be in the vanguard of this campaign?
Amess’ fellow Essex MP, Mark François (note cedilla under the c) wanted the world to know that it was Facebook and Twitter Wot Done It. He was “minded to drag Mark Zuckerberg [CEO of Facebook] and Jack Dorsey [CEO of Twitter] to the bar of the house … if necessary kicking and screaming so they can look us all in the eye and account for their actions or rather their inactions that make them even richer than they already are”.
Eh? Football’s football, if it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be the game that it was. But there was more. “[François] said MPs should radically toughen up the pending online harms bill to prevent trolls and other abusers hiding behind pseudonyms … ‘[Amess] was appalled by what he called the vile misogynistic abuse which female MPs had to endure online and he told me very recently that he wanted something done about it’”. However.
As the Guardian has reported, “Campaigners have warned, however, that ending online anonymity could put whistleblowers and pro-democracy campaigners in authoritarian regimes at risk”. Also, when Rhondda MP Chris Bryant received a death threat recently, it did not take the Police long to locate and arrest someone over the alleged offence.
Moreover, when it comes to spreading hatred against MPs - and others, including judges and campaigners (pace Gina Miller) - anonymous Twitter and Facebook accounts cannot hold a candle to the firepower all too frequently deployed by the press, especially that part which is fully invested in The Adoration Of The Boris. Then comes a further problem.
Well, look who's back
Thomas Mair, who murdered Jo Cox, was radicalised by Britain First, a far-right group that is not an anonymous social media troll. And it is now suggested that Ali Harbi Ali, arrested and detained over Amess’ killing, may have been radicalised by Anjem Choudary, who is most definitely not an anonymous presence. Ms Miller received death threats after a slew of hostile coverage in papers like the Daily Mail and Murdoch Sun.
So, as Captain Blackadder might have pointed out, there was only one thing wrong with this idea - it was bollocks. As so often, those without the power to fight back are the ones chosen by the entitled and comfortable within the media class to be the fall guys for something that media class has had more than an occasional hand in fomenting.
But Mark François will not be declaring his support for the Hacked Off campaign any time soon. He will continue to be the darling of the press’ hard right punditry, railing against social media providers while those who scrabble around the dunghill that is Grubstreet continue to smear, demonise, doxx, defame and otherwise whip up the mob. He will continue to champion, and indeed to exemplify, the role of useful idiot.
Ending online anonymity is only the solution if the problem is “how do we get someone else to take the fall while carrying on publishing hatred”? So it isn’t a solution at all.
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