High-profile celebrities in the UK, including Irish comedian Aisling Bea and football pundit Gary Lineker, have joined a campaign to fight social media trolls.
The group of TV stars, politicians and campaigners will be muting, blocking and reporting “abhorrent” and derogatory comments – with the worst handed to the police – in a bid to starve so-called trolls of the wider audience they reportedly crave.
The move wants to stamp out those who are using social media to spread racist, sexist, xenophobic and other hateful messaging via retweets and public shaming by well-known figures on social media.
Bea, who recently had a hit with her Channel 4 show ‘This Way Up’, said: “We need to develop and practise our empathy, not just in real life but in our online lives which have escalated without rules of engagement, benefiting no one.”
Lineker, with 7.4 million Twitter followers, is encouraging social media users: “Don’t rise to the bait, block the trolls and take some time out.”
He said he was determined to “show online trolls the red card” after seeing recent racist abuse directed at young black footballers who ply their trade in the Premier League.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan is among the politicians to have backed the incentive, while ‘Dragons’ Den’ star Deborah Meaden and ‘Pointless’ quiz show host Richard Osman have also vowed to no longer engage with trolls.
New research suggests hate speech is being inadvertently spread via social media when insults, put downs or worse are quoted or shared.
To reverse the worrying trend, the celebrities have signed-up to instead reporting the worst cases of online abuse and vile messages to the police, while sending lesser examples to social media companies to put pressure on them to act.
In one eye-opening piece of analysis, a quoted tweet by Labour and anti-Brexit MP David Lammy to his 562,000 followers was able to increase his abuser’s own popularity by 14pc.
The abuser had accused the MP of not being “indigenous English”.