I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Siobhan Baillie) for securing this important debate. For me, online abuse increased when I became the Member of Parliament for Hyndburn, and it has included death threats, threats against my friends, my family, and a constant barrage of abuse. I cannot pretend that those words have not sometimes affected me and given me sleepless nights, worrying about my wellbeing and that of my loved ones. I have often defended the right to debate, whether in person or online, and I stand by that. However, it is unacceptable for a person to receive online abuse for their opinions, appearance, gender, or any other reason. Internet companies need to hold online trolls to account for their words and the damage those words cause. It is cowardly to hide behind a screen and the anonymity that social media profiles create.
I am fortunate that I have good people around me, both inside and outside this House, who I can turn to when I received such abuse. However, there are people across this country who have no one to turn to, and nobody to remind them of their good qualities. As we all know, online abuse can cause irreparable emotional and psychological damage for victims. It is not a surprise that as online abuse has increased, mental health issues have increased among young people. This is a growing pandemic, and I am pleased that the online safety Bill will begin to address those painful issues by holding internet companies to account.
My constituents have regularly shown their support for greater accountability from social media platforms and online abusers, I have been blown away on numerous occasions by the online support I received when I have shared my experiences. Those outpourings of love and support are testament to the fact that social media can be a safe and positive place for everyone.
In their manifesto, the Government made a commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. That commitment shows their intent to bring about positive change, and I applaud Ministers for condemning such online abuse. I welcome the review of law enforcement powers to tackle illegal anonymous abuse online, and I look forward to the Law Commission’s recommendations for reform in that area. I hope that Ministers will seriously consider, where appropriate, whether to bring those recommendations into law as part of the online safety Bill. We must all join together to say, “Enough is enough”, and we need to take action on this now.