At its Biennial Delegate Conference in Enniskillen, the Northern Ireland Conference of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions unanimously passed a resolution from the National Union of Journalists condemning online hate speech and abuse.
Moving the motion, Militant Labour member and National Executive representative (jobshare) Anton McCabe said he would be short, angry and bitter. “Social media has become a sewer of vile abuse,” McCabe told the Conference. “Appallingly, owners such as Elon Musk profit from this.
“I am not proposing this motion because I see journalists as some sort of protected group. It is just that we are one of the groups that suffers worst. By the nature of the job, journalists need to engage with social media.
“What we are talking about is not just words. Abuse is particularly gender-based, against women. This is a form of violence against women.
“Our women members have particularly suffered this. Patricia Devlin received online threats to rape her infant son. Twitter allowed the relentless trolling of the late Lyra McKee, by anonymous accounts.”
Vile abuse of women journalists online
“Vile abuse online has driven women members of our union to the end of their tether.
“Let me be clear, this is also directed at other trade unionists, political representatives, and young people. It has driven people off social media.
“Trade unions must make it clear to their members. This abuse, particularly abuse against women, is not part of the job. We must stand with our members, particularly our women members, and give them confidence to report this abuse.
“I am bitter because of the lack of energy in tackling this abuse. The police response has improved, but has a long way to go.
“The trade union movement must support democratising social media. We must teach our members how to use it. Social media is a great tool for our movement, in organising, in spreading information.
However, the model of ownership puts profit before responsibility. These companies are allowed to inflict misery on our members, on other trade unionists, on young people. They regulate with the lightest of hands and make the maximum of profit.”
The Equity Trade Union, which represents actors and other performers, seconded the motion.