Police investigating abusive tweet sent to Diane Dodds

The PSNI confirmed that a tweet sent to former economy minister Diane Dodds was reported to police.
Police investigating abusive tweet sent to Diane Dodds

By Cate McCurry, PA

Police are investigating an “abusive” tweet sent to a DUP MLA about her dead child.

The PSNI confirmed that a tweet sent to former Northern Ireland economy minister Diane Dodds was reported to police.The post had been widely condemned online.Mrs Dodds posted on Twitter to wish her followers a happy new year.

However, an anonymous user replied with an abusive response by making reference to her dead son, Andrew.Andrew was born with spina bifida and died in 1998 just before his ninth birthday.

Mrs Dodds confirmed she spoke to the PSNI about the tweet.DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was among those to condemn the abuse.

He said: “There is a real need to call time on the ‘wild west’ online where a small number of people believe they can say or do what they like without consequence.

“No-one should be expected to just accept or ignore disgusting abuse, particularly that faced by many female public representatives.

“Whilst we recognise the difficulties that Police have in pursuing anonymous trolls on social media, we welcome the decision of the PSNI to launch an investigation into this particular tweet and the person responsible for it.

“We believe this to be a hate crime and it is important that those who engage in such behaviour are held to account.

“Like most online cowards, this latest abuse directed at Diane Dodds came from someone hiding behind a cloak of anonymity. This must be addressed and a verification process introduced.

“The social media platforms point to their reporting mechanisms but it is abundantly clear these don’t work.

“Even in this latest case the Twitter response is that despite such disgusting abuse, they don’t find it to be a ‘violation of our rules’.

“Even had Twitter decided to take action in this case and remove the account there would be nothing to stop this individual from simply starting afresh with a new username and the cycle could continue again.

“This is a deliberate choice by the social media platforms but it must stop.

“It has been gratifying to see a strong condemnation from many people in response to this abuse, but that does not tackle the root cause of the problem.

“Unfortunately self-regulation by social media companies has not worked so legislative action such as the Online Safety Bill will be necessary.”

Former DUP leader Arlene Foster, who has previously called for tighter regulations to tackle online trolling, also criticised the abuse.

Mrs Foster said: “I have just retweeted one of the most vile things I have read on twitter and I have read some awful stuff on Twitter.

“I want people to see what republicans are tweeting to unionist representatives – there must be action.”

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