Diane Abbott: Violence Against Women Online

I welcome scrutiny, and I welcome engagement and I welcome debate that’s why I was so positive about these online platforms. But the problem is when people are not engaging in debate or scrutiny, but just showering you with abuse. That you are a n*gger, that you are a prostitute, threats against your safety… It’s just abuse which has no political content and which actually people wouldn’t say in a meeting or to your face. I think the distinction between abuse and genuine political debate is, would they say it if they met you in the street? No they wouldn’t.

{The online abuse I get] is highly racialized and it’s also gendered because people talk about rape and they talk about my physical appearance in a way they wouldn’t talk about a man. I get a double whammy. I‘m abused as a female politician and I’m abused as a black politician. And also the volume of abuse is much greater. It’s the volume of it which makes it so debilitating. So corrosive and so upsetting. It’s the sheer volume. And the sheer level of hatred that people are showing.

Online abuse does damage you, it damages your confidence, it corrodes your self-esteem and it can make you second guess yourself as to what you talk about and what you write about. In terms of Twitter, I now spend much less time on Twitter than I used to, because the abuse is so terrible.

[Online abuse] is not free speech, it’s actually limiting everyone else’s free speech, because in my experience there are many women, and many women of colour who don’t participate online in the way that they would want to, because they’re really repelled by the level of abuse you get. I think the abuse I get online makes younger women of colour very hesitant about entering the public debate and thinking about going into politics. And after all, why should you have to pay that price for being in the public space?