GB News Yorkshire reporter Anna Riley today called for more attention to be given to combatting online emotional abuse in addition to just physical threats.
This comes after Riley, whilst working for Hull Live, received an abusive email in April from a woman in response to one of her articles.
The contents of the email were explicit, telling Riley to “go kill yourself” and included her personal address with threats to make it public.
Whilst she won a court battle against the woman, she believes that if the troll did not include her address, the abuse would not have been viewed as a safety threat.
Speaking at Leeds Trinity University, she said: “I think that maybe we could look into more emotional abuse and the toll that takes on you rather than just a physical threat of your address, and yes, it would be great for more to be put in place.”
“Emotional threats can last with you…if you know that the physical threat is gone, that’s not going to happen, but if someone says something really hurtful, that can stay with you for a lot longer than a threat of physical abuse can.”
However, she outlined the problems faced with identifying anonymous profiles. “The issue that the police do have is actually getting to the bottom of finding them, and they always say there is more on their agenda than that at the moment than doing that.”
She also acknowledged other factors that make abuse difficult to monitor. “I think the way that the police are maybe with their investigations, and being stretched, and the way that the current laws are at the moment, that the handling of it in a way is only if you are threatened with an address, or something like that, but the name-calling and that kind of thing…
“I think it’s hard, in a way to encompass that – as to how far is too far?”
This was not, however, the first time that Riley had received online abuse. “Before that [the article], the trolling was quite prolific from social media.
“You would get nasty comments… not so much about your story, but it could be about you as a person.”
Riley also urged students to report any abuse they receive: “I would say don’t stand for it, that would be my advice.
“I’d say always report it… they do say that you have to have a thick skin, in some ways you do, but you shouldn’t be treated like that just for doing your job.
“So, I wouldn’t normalise it or accept it, I would report it. I would speak to colleagues as well- your editors – about it, just to get a bit of moral support as well about how to handle it.
“It’s hard not to, but try to not take it personally. These people are trolls, they’ve got nothing better to do with their lives than sit behind a keyboard, or type on their phone and make these comments.”