This weekend at Young Labour's Equalities Academy, Jasmin Beckett will be inviting young members to speak out and 'Reclaim the Internet'.
The Internet has become a place where the public and the private now interact. We are now closer to celebrities and our elected representatives than ever before and this should be celebrated. It has given a voice to the marginalised and allows fast, open debate on the current topics of the day, allows us to research and learn, and interact with our friends across the country.
Tim Berners Lee may have envisioned this growth when he created the World Wide Web almost 30 years ago stating “this is for everyone.”
But with the rise in popularity of social media, came the rise of people using it as a resource for misogyny and bullying.
Every day on social media I see a young woman’s opinion shut down or ignored, I see bullying and harassment, I see racist, homophobic and misogynistic comments. This kind of behaviour is not only poisoning the internet, but its stopping people, our young members, from speaking out.
We have to sit back and reflect on the way we use the internet when young activists are deciding not to voice their opinion, not to campaign online, and not to speak out because of the amount of abuse they receive.
Last year I attended the ‘Reclaim the Internet’ conference in London where we heard from women who had been chased off social media due to online bullying and rape threats, and teachers who were subject to online abuse from pupils and parents. 60% of teachers polled by NASUWT say they have received some form of online abuse from pupils or parents online leading many to change careers all together. Furthermore, young women are more likely to be targeted experiencing a huge scale of social media misogyny.
In the Labour Party and beyond, whether someone is looking to stand to be an MP, a CLP youth officer or an NEC representative we must make clear that online abuse is not part of the job description. We need to start reminding one another that ‘holding someone to account’ is not posting messages repeatedly on their personal Facebook, or threatening someone to ‘vote the right way’.
We would never accept this offline, so why do we stand by and allow it to happen online?
Whilst on the NEC I have wanted to help tackle the abuse received by the members I represent, especially those who are women, LGBT, BAME and disabled. In light of this we have successfully worked to produce a new online code of conduct which you can find here. Furthermore, the Labour Party has recently appointed a new Head of Safeguarding who I am looking forward to working with to look at how we can tackle online abuse in our Party.
This weekend we are hosting the Equalities Academy in Bristol. Amongst many other exciting sessions this weekend, I will be chairing the ‘Reclaim the Internet’ session which is a campaign aiming to reclaim the Internet from trolls and to make it a safer place for women. The online benefits of being anonymous leads to inhibitions being lost completely. That’s why we must use this campaign to teach people what is acceptable behaviour online.
If you are in Bristol for the Equalities Academy this weekend, I hope you can come along and participate in the Reclaim the Internet session.
Our young members deserve better, and they deserve to use their voices without fear. Together we can stop online bullies, and stand against online abuse together.
NEC Youth Representative