Abigail McAlpine is a Computer Science & Informatics PhD Researcher at University of Huddersfield. Here she comments on the recent news story about Katie Price becoming the unlikely spokesperson asking MPs to tackle online abuse with regards to the online trolling of her disabled son Harvey.
“Katie Price has become the unlikely spokesperson asking MP’s to tackle online abuse. Her campaign started as a result of unrelenting social media abuse targeted at her disabled son Harvey who is partially blind, autistic and has Prader-Will syndrome which is a genetic disorder that can cause weakened muscles, slow development and constant hunger that often leads to obesity.
Katie stated in an interview that “He can’t speak to defend himself, I can”, the reality star is campaigning for online abuse to be made a criminal offence. The online petition started by Ms Price was backed by 200.000 people and has resulted in MP’s launching an inquiry into online abuse.
Harvey is one of four of Ms Price’s children who has been subject to cruel mockery of his disabilities and racial abuse. As a result of her petition many parents had shared similar stories about how their children had been targeted online.
The police stated that they were unable to take action against online bullies as there were no specific laws in place to deal with online abuse. Many are stating that the law is out of date and unable to keep up with the needs of people like Harvey who do not deserve to be subject to an onslaught of online abuse due to the colour of his skin, his disabilities or his age.
In response to criticism that Ms Price has invited comments about her son by simply posting pictures of her son online, Katie responded that disabled children needed to have more visibility and she was proud of her son.
In response to the suggestion that she invited the insults by posting pictures of her son, Katie Price said, “I’m proud of Harvey” and it was important for disabled children to have visibility. Regardless of the unlikely spokesperson for backing the change in the law regarding online abuse, Ms Price has in fact brought the issue to light and in front of MP’s.
The importance of balancing the protection of the freedom of speech and the need for a discussion about how bad online abuse could get was made stating that there must be a point where the abuse is considered criminal.
Ms Price has been praised not only for standing up for the rights of disabled people online but children and the public. The petition touched a nerve in the senses of most parents who fear online retribution for their children simply being online.
The Petitions Committee is currently looking into the impact of online abuse – particularly for people with disabilities regarding the responsibility for protection and whether technology companies are doing enough.
The Secure Societies Institute at the University of Huddersfield is currently researching areas relating to the protection of vulnerable people online.”
- You can read the BBC’s coverage on the news here.