Internet trolls who abuse MPs could be banned from voting

LONDON — Social media trolls could be banned from voting under plans being pushed by Britain’s official election watchdog.

The Commission has suggested that people found to have abused MPs would be disqualifed from registering to vote, voting in an election or standing in an election as a candidate.

The Electoral Commission proposals come in response to a parliamentary review into the abuse and intimidation MPs faced during the general election.

The response says: “In some instances, electoral law does specify offences in respect of behaviour that could also amount to an offence under the general criminal law.

“It may be that similar special electoral consequences could act as a deterrent to abusive behaviour in relation to candidates and campaigners.”

The organisation said it was time for British laws to be updated to come into line with the digital era.

“Our strong tradition of free elections are an essential part of a healthy democracy, and people should be able to stand for election and campaign without fear of abuse or intimidation,” Tom Hawthorn, Head of Policy at the Electoral Commission, said.

“However, many offences in electoral law have not been reviewed or updated since they were first created in the 19th century. We urge the Government to implement proposals made last year by the UK’s Law Commissions to make it easier for everyone to understand and comply with these laws, and for the police and prosecutors to enforce them.”

The evidence also detailed some of the abuse MPs had received, including candidates being intimidated in their own homes, and malicious statements being made on the internet.

One candidate told the Commission that they had suffered “covert and overt bullying, dirty tricks and misogyny.”

A survey by BBC 5 Live, published on Monday, showed that just over half of the 113 MPs who responded (51%) said the 2017 general election campaign had been the worst they had ever experienced in terms of abuse.

87% of MPs in the same study said they had faced some form of abuse or intimidation during the general election.

One female Labour MP told the BBC: “Does a man coming into my office threatening to bomb it count?”

Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said last week that she had received “really quite frightening” abuse on Twitter.

She said: “When I say abuse it’s not people saying ‘I disagree with you about nationalising the railways’, it’s people calling you a ‘n***** bitch’, it’s people threatening acid attacks, it’s rape, it’s death threats.”

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