THE VAST majority of so-called trolls, who use social media to insult and threaten fellow users, are merely sad individuals who have no intention of carrying out their vile threats.
Yet it is, of course, impossible to distinguish between those who are merely content to intimidate because technology has provided them with a simple and anonymous means of doing so, and those who truly intend serious harm. And last year’s senseless murder of Batley and Spen MP Jo Cox was a tragic illustration of the potential danger faced by those in public life.
In the months since Mrs Cox’s death, the police team looking into crimes against MPs has investigated more than 50 complaints, ranging from hate-filled rants on Twitter to criminal damage.
The danger, therefore, is clear and anyone who doubts this has only to listen to York Central MP Rachael Maskell who was the target of appalling threats following Mrs Cox’s murder and who fears that many people, particularly women, will be deterred from standing for Parliament because of the level of abuse.
It is, of course, traditional for the public to moan about MPs. Yet the fact is that most MPs are all too willing to risk being unpopular in the cause of championing what they believe to be right.
They are equally willing to be criticised and to argue their case through the forum of rational debate. But no one should be expected to tolerate abuse, let alone put their lives on the line, purely because they are in public service. The money spent on keeping our MPs safe, therefore, is a necessary and tragic sign of the times.