Shocking new figures emerged today about the extent of online abuse faced by MPs. New Changing Faces research, Disfigurement in the UK, shows we are facing an epidemic of online abuse, with people with disfigurements being particularly vulnerable to harassment and trolling.
One in 10 people with a disfigurement have been a direct target of abuse online and almost a third are too concerned to use an image of their own face on their social media profile. Almost all of those surveyed have seen a photo, meme or other content that mocked someone’s appearance – creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation around appearance-based bullying online.
This week news broke of a photograph Harry Beswick, who has Goldenhar syndrome, and his mother being reported and removed from Instagram because it breached their community guidelines. This picture has now been replaced – but such situations are wholly unacceptable and cause great distress to those affected.
Our research shows people with disfigurements have very little faith in the ability or willingness of social media platforms to tackle the problem of online abuse and provide much needed help and support. Numerous respondents told us that their images had been used without their consent, or turned into memes, and yet in every case the social media platforms failed to take any action. This cannot continue.
Changing Faces is calling on social media platforms to take action immediately to take a zero-tolerance approach to tackling all trolling and abuse, including targeting people with a disfigurement; revise their community guidelines, terms and conditions and practice to ensure they are not insensitive to the different characteristics of people’s faces caused by disfigurements; and take decisive action against individual users who repeatedly troll and abuse people with a disfigurement including a temporary or permanent exclusion from the platform.”