Reclaim the Internet or Shut Down Debate?

EYEuse open source journalist techniques to examine some of the high profile examples of internet abuse promoted by Yvette Cooper MP to support her Reclaim the Internet Campaign.

The internet should be a way to give voice to the voiceless, to hold the powerful to account but instead some people are using it to shut down debate.

Reclaim the internet and let it be the nice, helpful, democratic place we know it could be. Yvette Cooper MP

In December 2015 Yvette Cooper MP launched an initiative called Reclaim the Internet.  The stated purpose of the project is to address online sexism and in her promotional interviews Cooper has cited high profile examples of online abuse against fellow Labour MP Jess Phillips, Science Broadcaster Dr Emily Grossman and activist and comedian Kate Smurthwaite.

EYEhas conducted open source investigations into these three incidents in an attempt to establish the frequency and seriousness of the ‘abuse’ these individuals received.

‘Online abuse’ is a modern manifestation of a very old problem and clearly  it needs to be addressed but, even after accepting that each individual has a very personal perception as to what should (or should not) be considered ‘offensive’ or ‘abusive’, EYEthink that Cooper’s choice of examples could ultimately undermine the stated aim of her campaign.

EYEdid find some evidence of behaviour that could reasonably be considered to be ‘abusive’ or ‘offensive’ in all three case studies.  That said, based on the available evidence, EYEalso found that media reports and personal claims about the level of abuse appear to have been grossly exaggerated.

All three examples show clear evidence of the conflation of significant amounts of criticism communicated by members of the public in the immediate aftermath of controversial, provocative, ill informed or potentially chauvinistic statements by these public figures.  Crucially, in all cases the available testimony of the ‘victim’ provides significant evidence to support this conclusion.

Judge for yourself:


For the first time ever, thanks to the explosion of social media, the world can talk to the world – unmediated. Information known by one person can be shared around the world in less than an hour – as evidenced by WikiLeaks. The whole world is firing up, like a teenage brain – burning neural pathways across the globe, making connections, expanding, leaping.  Caitlin Moran

Next | Jess Phillips & the Death of Twitter


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