MP defends blocking abusive constituents on social media but those locked out say they are not trolls

A Yorkshire MP has defended blocking some constituents on social media as he said he would not tolerate abuse levelled at him online.

Keighley MP Robbie Moore has been accused by some constituents of blocking them from contacting him on social media “simply for holding an alternative view”.

In a letter to the Conservative Party’s chief whip, Mark Spencer, an 18-strong group of constituents said they had not been abusive or trolling, and that the actions create “a completely false impression [...] that all his constituents agree with his actions or views” and “basic democracy is being denied”.

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But a spokesman for Mr Moore said constituents could still contact their MP by telephone, email or letter, and that there was no obligation for MPs to operate social media accounts.

Keighley MP Robbie Moore. Photo: JPI Media

The Prime Minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said yesterday there was a balance to be struck between allowing constituents access to have “robust” discussions with their representatives but also not tolerating what would be abuse.

MPs from all parties have spoken out about the growing issue of abuse and threats on social media.

Mr Moore’s spokesman said there was “no Parliamentary obligation for an MP to operate social media accounts”.

He said: “They do so by choice. Mr Moore does not tolerate abusive, threatening, intimidating or any other anti-social content on his various social media accounts.

“If Mr Moore believes that somebody is violating this then he is within his rights to remove them from his page.”

However constituent Lydia MacKinnon, who coordinated the letter, said she and others had not been “trolling” their MP, but asking questions.

She said she may have sometimes been “sarcastic” and that an Instagram page for her dog had also been blocked by Mr Moore after posting that claims made were “b*******”.

But Mrs MacKinnon said she had noticed a growing trend of MPs blocking constituents on social media and after she made a call for those who had been blocked without having been abusive to come forward, she said she had identified at least 135 MPs who had allegedly done so, 127 of whom were Conservatives.

However she admitted that because of the demographics of voters it may be the case that those opposing what Labour MPs had to say might be less likely to engage with them on social media.

A number of Yorkshire’s MPs including Conservative MP for Penistone and Stockbridge Miriam Cates, and Labour MP for Sheffield South East Clive Betts do not have Twitter accounts.

But Mrs MacKinnon said for those that do, she felt politicians had a duty to engage and there were questions to be asked about whether MPs’ social media accounts were personal or private.

“I’m not interested in people who have been blocked because they were abusive or trolling,” she said, and said she had asked for proof she had been anything more than sarcastic and challenging.

But she added: “I do think there is something fundamentally wrong about the fact that MPs can operate social media accounts but not be accountable for what they do on them.”

Ms Stratton said she would look into the issue and said: “There has to be a balance between between being challenged and your constituents feeling able to contact you and make robust points, but at the same time making sure that the abuse that some of our MPs from all parties get is also held in check so there has to be a balance.”

She added that MPs should not be blocking people just because they do not agree.