The Welsh Government has refused to confirm under which circumstances it is willing to prevent access to student support in terms of Internet trolling carried out by students wishing to claim such funding from Student Finance Wales or the Student Loans Company.
The Welsh Government was asked by Crocels News under which circumstances it would “unfit” (i.e. declare ineligible) students who carry out Internet trolling of its staff. “If a member of the public asks for information, you only have to provide information you already have in recorded form,” said Steve Nicholls of its Higher Education Division. “You do not have to create new information or find the answer to a question from staff who may happen to know it.“
The Welsh Assembly member for Rhondda, Leanne Wood, has benefited from the proven benevolent sexism at South Wales Police, amounting to what an expert calls ‘female privilege.’
Plaid Cymru’s Leanne Wood became one of the many women in South Wales who benefit from police attention for Internet trolling just because they are women.
A freedom of information request by Crocels News has found up to 5 times as many men are arrested and charged for Internet trolling as women.
Leanne Wood’s victim, popular DJ Dave Begley, sent a spur of the moment tweet to Leanne Wood’s Twitter account, which she was not manning due to being on the television at the time. The tweet conveyed a non-credible threat that Begley wished Leanne Wood was “gang raped by immigrants,” when it was in the moment and not intended to be perceived as Mr Begley’s actual opinion.
Internet trolling and cyberstalking expert Councillor Jonathan Bishop, of Action on Digital Addiction and Cyberstalking, says he is not surprised by the situation. “My research has found that South Wales Police are up to five times more likely to take action where the person accused of trolling is a man and the accuser is woman,” he said. “This female privilege at the heart of South Wales Police is totally unacceptable as everyone should have equal access to justice regardless of their sex.
“The legal case of Calver v The Adjudication Panel for Wales found that politicians are expected to have a thicker skin and the case of DPP v Chambers found that someone has to feel apprehension to be a victim of trolling.
“Rape threats are common online and most are non-credible threats.”
“If the leader of Plaid Cymru feels apprehension from receiving a non-credible threat on Twitter, one should ask whether she is in the right job.
Councillor Bishop said that most trolling laws focus on the rights of the victim as opposed to the rights of the public in general, and he did not think police time should be focussed on public figures like Leanne Wood. “I might have had a different opinion on the prosecution of Mr Begley if the focus had not been on Leanne Wood’s feelings, but if he had been prosecuted under the Public Order Act for making threatening statements that could offend members of the public,” he said. “We should question why the police are spending time on rape threats rather than focusing on actual victims of rape of all sexes who all too often are blamed, disbelieved or otherwise fobbed off by the police for what is usually a planned attack against them.”
District Judge Neil Thomas of Swansea Magistrates Court sentenced Dave Begley to 12 weeks in prison. Leanne Wood remains the Welsh Assembly Member for Rhondda.
The number of websites allowing patients to post reviews of the care they receive from their GP practices is increasing. But doctors say that many reviews are unfairly negative and even abusive, with GPs often unable to respond to anonymous reviewers.
Leeds GP Richard Vautrey says that the profession is left increasingly open to criticism on TripAdvisor-style websites where care, compassion and life-saving expertise are rated by patients as if they were restaurants or hotels. “It is very easy to be a popular doctor, but it’s much harder to be a good one,” he said.
Government-run ratings website NHS Choices has given patients the chance to have their say about health services since 2007, with ratings out of five given for staff and practices — and anonymous messages left permanently for all the world to see.
In just nine years since its formation, the site has grown to 48 million views a month, according to NHS figures. And in recent years, several privately operated alternatives have sprung up — offering to guide patients through their choices.
But concerned doctors say the websites are leading to abuse, personal attacks and libellous comments — and could even pressure staff into providing treatment that isn’t in the best interests of patients in order to satisfy their demands.
Dr Richard Vautrey is also BMA GPs committee deputy chair. “Practices have had grave concerns with the simplistic and misleading sites such as NHS Choices, which bases judgements on the feedback from tiny numbers of patients who often have a particular axe to grind,” he said. “Such sites often don’t provide patients with useful or balanced information that patients can use to make truly evidence-based judgements about a practice or the care it delivers.”
The BMA supports patient choice within the NHS where possible but has raised concerns about simple measures being used to define quality — the belief being that there is more to good care than headline statistics.
Bill Beeby is deputy chair of the GPC GP clinical and prescribing sub-committee. “I think if people use them properly it could be helpful, but that is not always the case,” he said. “Nobody is in a rush to give good reviews.”
The Middlesbrough-based GP’s practice has been scarred with reviews ranging from the insulting to the potentially libellous — including one that said: “It is with no doubt that this surgery is failing patients.”
Irfan Malik is a GP in Sherwood, Nottinghamshire. “Patients don’t always get what they want,” he said. “The doctor will have managed the situation correctly but the patient is not happy and may give a low rating.”
Dr Malik’s surgery is given a five-star rating overall on NHS Choices based on 49 reviews, but a couple of patients have given one-star reviews, citing ‘poor service’ or ‘long waiting times’. “The majority of doctors dislike the ratings websites as people mostly go on to them to leave negative feedback and some can be hurtful,” he said. “Many practices, even the better ones, have low or medium scores. Some of the ratings websites can be difficult for the doctor or practice to reply to or challenge the comments.
“We have so many hoops and assessments to jump through in general practice — further ratings websites would add to the already intense stress of the job.”
In the UK there are still only a handful of private websites where patients are actively rating their doctors in any number, but some are taking off.
One of those websites, iWantGreatCare.org, shows thorough listings for GP surgeries, doctors and healthcare centres, with some receiving up to 3,000 reviews each.
In healthcare, rating systems are far more widely used in the USA, with a 2013 study of more than 4,000 people, by a firm called Profitable Practice, showing that around 60 per cent checked online before selecting a doctor.
And a simple search for a dermatology consultant in New York on a major website such as www.healthgrades.com , which gives doctors a rating out of five stars for patient satisfaction and a graph where their suitability to the patient’s needs is measured out of 100, reveals more than 400 doctors to choose from.
In 2012 a doctor in South Carolina admitted to prescribing a powerful opioid analgesic, Dilaudid (hydromorphone), to a patient with toothache — a measure described by a colleague of the doctor as ‘killing a flea with a sledgehammer‘.
When questioned about the decision, the doctor said he had been given low scores by patients during the previous month on one of the USA’s leading ratings websites, Press Ganey, and was angling for that to change.
And in 2013 a doctor at a Massachusetts hospital filed a $100,000 lawsuit against a patient who criticised his dying wife’s care in an open letter online — with the contents argued to be defamatory.
The challenge for GPs will be to engage with people in order to continue to provide high-quality care and the choice that patients want and deserve, but there must be a much greater sense of responsibility from those who expose them to unfair and demoralising criticism.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders, has launched new guidance on the prosecution of offences involving social media.
The revised guidelines cover cases where offenders set up fake profiles in the names of others, as well as advising prosecutors on the use of social media in new offences, such as revenge pornography and controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate or family relationship.
Alison Saunders says that the new guidance is essential. “Online communication is developing at such a fast pace, new ways of targeting and abusing individuals online are constantly emerging,” she said. “We are seeing more and more cases where social media is being used as a method to facilitate both existing and new offences.”
“It is vital that prosecutors consider the bigger picture when looking at evidence and examine both the online and offline behaviour pattern of the defendant.”
As the Director of Public Prosecutions, Alison Saunders has faced criticism and controversy around the handling of trials for rape and sexual assault. The Crown Prosecution Service has been criticised for being too eager to bring cases for perverting the course of justice against those who have falsely accused others of rape, including the case of Eleanor de Freitas, who killed herself after the Crown Prosecution Service decided to take over a private prosecution brought against her by the man she accused, despite her having a mental illness.
Alison Saunders justified the new guidance. “Online abuse is cowardly and can be deeply upsetting to the victim,” she said. “Worryingly we have seen an increase in the use of cyber-enabled crime in cases related to Violence against Women and Girls, including domestic abuse.
“Offenders can mistakenly think that by using false online profiles and creating websites under a false name their offences are untraceable.
“Thankfully this is not the case and an online footprint will be left by the offender.
“Our guidelines are under constant review and continuously updated to ensure prosecutors have clear advice on new methods of committing crimes.”
In April 2015, Saunders was criticized for her decision to not prosecute Greville Janner on child sexual abuse charges despite his meeting the evidential test for prosecution, citing his poor health, as well as for dropping charges against nine journalists as part of the Operation Elveden case.
US Presidential candidate hopeful, Donald Trump, is facing calls to be banned from the UK, as claims of fascist behaviour at his rallies dog his campaign.
A petition, calling for Donald Trump to face a ban from entry to the UK on the same basis as others preaching hate, has over half a million signatures, and was considered by the UK Parliament at Westminster Hall on 18 January 2016.
The debate comes as reports of fascist behaviour at Donald Trump’s rallies in the United States become even more severe. Donald Trump has been captured on camera at the Flynn Theater in Burlington, Vermont, throwing out dissident voices, and others, from among those attending. “We will get more and more angry as we go along,” Donald Trump was heard saying as protesters were escorted out. “And by the end I will say, ‘get the hell out of here,’” he continued. “And then by the way, by that time, security will be so tough and so nasty, and you know what is going to happen when that happens?” he asked. “You’re not going to have any more problems, you’re not going to have not going to have any problems,” he concluded.
Paul Flynn MP, who lead the debate in the UK Parliament, described the sort of people banned from the UK in the past. “A leader of a violent gang that beat migrants and posted films of the attacks on the internet,” was one person who was banned because they were “considered to be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by fomenting serious criminal activity and seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts.” Another was banned because they were considered to “be engaging in unacceptable behaviour by fomenting terrorist violence in furtherance of his political beliefs.” A further person was banned because they were considered to be engaged in “unacceptable behaviour by seeking to provoke others to serious criminal acts.”
Councillor Jonathan Bishop is the parish councillor for Lower Cam in England, and a prospective candidate in this year’s Welsh Assembly elections. As an Internet trolling expert, he has long argued for free speech over censorship, but says he believes Donald Trump is over-stepping the mark. “It is one thing to call someone offensive names, or to post threats that lack any credibility to Twitter,” he said. “It is a totally different thing to be relying on others’ stupidity to further fascist behaviour that destroys free speech,” he continued. “The sort of behaviour Donald Trump shows at his rallies is not that one might expect to see from someone who wants to be the leader of the so-called free world,” he concluded.
Prime Minister David Cameron has made clear that he completely disagrees with Donald Trump’s hate speech and Home Secretary Theresa May has said that Donald Trump’s remarks in relation to Muslims are divisive, unhelpful and wrong. “The Government recognises the strength of feeling against the remarks and will continue to speak out against comments which have the potential to divide our communities, regardless of who makes them,” a UK Government statement said. “We reject any attempts to create division and marginalisation amongst those we endeavour to protect.“
The UK Members of Parliament that have been most affected by Internet abuse following voting for the UK to be involved in military action in Syria are those that have a prior record for condemning Internet trolling, it has been revealed.
The MPs most harshly treated by trolls include Stella Creasy and Ben Bradshaw, both of whom have been critical of those who rigorously hold them to account online.
Ben Bradshaw’s Wikipedia page was targeted, with an anonymous editor writing: “Ben Bradshaw can no longer sleep at night due to the screams of murdered children haunting his dreams and as such can be seen regulalry (sic) cycling round Exeter’s picturesque city centre at all times of the day.” Stella Creasy’s Wikipedia article was edited to call her a “Labour Co-operative politician and warmonger.”
Internet trolling and cyberstalking expert, Jonathan Bishop, says it should not be surprising that the Members of Parliament that are most against free speech would be most targeted. “Both Stella Creasy and Ben Bradshaw have a history of criticising being trolled by members of the public,” he said. “It is not unsurprising therefore that when they act in a way perceived as denying others (in Syria) the freedoms they take for granted, that they will be subject to scrutiny more so than those without a history attacking free speech online.“
A Labour MP has criticised the feedback they have received on social media following voting in the UK Parliamentary debate on taking military action in Syria.
Stella Creasy, an alternate MP elected to UK Parliament following an all-women-shortlist that prevented Labour men from standing, criticised members of the public for holding her to account on Twitter for voting in favour of military action in Syria.
The MP has already had other members of the public sent to jail for trolling her, including Peter Nunn of Bristol.
Calls have been made by some of her colleagues for Stella Creasy to resign, but the alternate MP remains defiant. “The one thing I will not do is be bullied by a sitting Walthamstow Labour councillor with the threat of deselection,” she fumed.
Ann Coffey is the Labour MP for Stockport and believes it is inappropriate to target members of the public when their behaviour is little different to those of MPs. “I think that some of the remarks made by my parliamentary colleagues have been very unfortunate,” she said. “For example, remarks made about blood on your hands, that you’ve got nowhere to hide, and I think that if you have that at the top of party what you have is permission to target MPs.“
A woman who tried to sue Facebook and Google in January over claims she was defamed on the platforms has lost her legal battle.
Camille Saskia Richardson sued the UK divisions of Google and Facebook for the defamation, but her bid was blocked by High Court Master Jervis Kay QC in June, who said that as the subsidiaries were not directly responsible they could not be liable for the actions of the parent company.
Camille Saskia Richardson’s bid to appeal the decision when Justice Warby ruled the decision of Jervis Kay QC.
Merseyside Police has apologised for jokes about rape that was posted to its Twitter account.
The first message read: “Just confirm there was no actual rape. Sunderland certainly got caught with their pants down.” The tweet was posted in response to a message which said: “Hello. I’d like to report an incident of rape that occurred at Goodison Park, Liverpool, on November 1st at 3:00.”
The Merseyside Police Twitter account posted a second message: “Afraid not, it’s not a criminal offence to lose week in, week out“.” This was in response to the subsequent tweet to them by another user: “I’d like to report an incident that’s been going on for ages. Chelsea get raped every week, can you help?”
An expert has explained why a United Kingdom Member of Parliament who criticised the holding of a “International Men’s Day” debate was subject to rape threats.
Jess Phillips, the Member of Parliament for MP for Birmingham Yardley, faced a torrent of rape threats after speaking against calls for an International Men’s Day debate. Jess Phillips comments were widely seen as sexist, and experts say Jess Phillips should have expected the reaction.
Jonathan Bishop is an Internet trolling and cyberstalking expert. Bishop has been researching and publishing on why rape threats exist online.”No one should be shocked over the rape-threats received by Birmingham MP, Jess Phillips after she opposed an International Men’s Day debate,” he said. “Women are usually targeted by rape threats because that is seen by as their weak-spot, which all bullies focus on.
“If Jess Phillips was a black man, it is likely she would have received racial slurs if she had spoken against an ‘International Whites Day.’“
Bishop’s research found that women who spoke up for men’s rights and those of a different religion to them were not trolled, but praised. Those women who wanted less rights for men were trolled. This is because trolls always target hypocrites, he argues. “This is how the trolls likely saw Jess Phillips – as a sexist hypocritical woman who doesn’t speak against International Women’s Day, but who does speak against an International Men’s Day debate,” Bishop concluded.
Jess Phillips remains defiant. “Being told that ‘I asked for it’ regarding threats to rape me is not fun. Its not 1st time in my life I’ve heard it,” she said. “Today my son is 7. I’m glad he is not old enough to go on internet and find all the people threatening to rape me.“