Daniel Zeichner MP is leading a debate in Parliament this afternoon on Bobby’s Bill, in response to a parliamentary petition which calls for online homophobia to be made a specific crime following a viral online campaign by The Only Way is Essex star, Bobby Norris.
The petition, signed by over 152,000 people, calls on the Government to“ make online homophobia a specific criminal offence“.
Currently, it is illegal to post “hate speech“ online which attacks characteristics such as race or sexuality, but the laws pre-date social media, and Daniel Zeichner MP has called for them to be updated.
Mr Zeichner will tell Parliament that: “When homophobic verbal or physical attacks happen on the streets, as awful as they are, I am thankful that they still make headlines. But online abuse does not seem to attract the same level of outrage, though it absolutely contributes to an atmosphere of fear, and has a divisive hateful effect. One in ten LGBT people, 10 per cent, have experienced homophobic, biphobic or transphobic abuse online directed towards them personally in the last month.“
“ As Chair of the All Party Group on Data Analytics I meet many people who are rightly enthused by the potential of big data to be a power for good, but the sheer pace of change, often out of public sight, means that we have a responsibility to also ask serious questions about how these new technologies are being used, and what effect, unintended or not, they may be having on individuals and on our society. What we do not need is to develop new ways of people being unpleasant to one another – we have enough of that already.“
“But my plea, is for people to just be nicer to each other. Is it really that hard? But for those who can’t, we need laws to protect ourselves from them, and my very simple message to the tech companies and the Minister is that we now need to move swiftly to make it clear that online homophobia, like all other hate, has no place in a civilised society.“
The MP for Cambridge comments: “It was really moving to meet Bobby and to hear about the horrific abuse that he’s experienced online. He should be really proud of a positive campaign promoting respect and diversity, and I hope the Minister listens to his case as I set it out in today’s debate, and that we can stamp out online homophobia once and for all. No more warm words – we need platforms to take responsibility, and enforce properly – words have consequences, and we all owe it ot each other to be kinder online.“