Rachel Riley and Gary Lineker back campaign to block online trolls
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Rachel Riley and Gary Lineker back campaign to block online trolls

Jewish Countdown presenter and Match of the Day pundit call on celebrities not to 'rise to the bait' of hateful social media users with new '#DontFeedTheTrolls' initiative

Countdown star Rachel Riley. Photo credit: Ian West/PA Wire
Countdown star Rachel Riley. Photo credit: Ian West/PA Wire

High profile celebrities – including ex-England striker Gary Lineker and Jewish Countdown presenter Rachel Riley – have pledged not to publicise the social media abuse they receive from vile online trolls.

Instead, the group of television stars, politicians and campaigners will be muting, blocking and reporting “abhorrent” and derogatory comments – with the worst handed to the police – in a bid to starve so-called trolls of the wider audience they reportedly crave.

The move wants to stamp out entirely those who are using social media to spread racist, sexist, xenophobic and other hateful messaging via retweets and public shaming by well-known figures on social media.

The public figures have been convinced by new research that suggests hate speech is being inadvertently spread via social media when insults, put downs or worse are quoted or shared.

To reverse the worrying trend, the likes of Lineker and Riley have signed-up to instead reporting the worst cases of online abuse and vile messages to the police, while sending lesser examples to social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook to put pressure on them to act.

And new charity, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), the group behind the Don’t Feed the Trolls report, is advocating an even simpler solution for those being badgered online – it recommends muting notifications and taking a break from social media in the first instance, before escalating anything thought to be unlawful.

Jewish TV-personality Riley, a former Strictly Come Dancing contestant, has been on the receiving of antisemitic abuse and was involved in the research behind the report.

She said the experience had “totally changed the way I interact on Twitter”.

“Before having CCDH’s knowledge it felt like not responding to trolls or blocking them was weak, and calling them out, trying to engage in conversation and education was helpful, but the research shows otherwise,” said the Celebrity Gogglebox star who has campaigned against antisemitism in the Labour Party.

“I now block trolls as common practice, and have changed my settings to avoid seeing much of their output, which has made life much better from a mental health standpoint and vitally, is not inadvertently helping to grow their audiences or feed their negativity.”

Lineker, with his 7.4 million Twitter followers, is encouraging fellow social media users: “Don’t rise to the bait, block the trolls and take some time out.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, former home secretary Alan Johnson and ex-minister for business Margot James MP are among the politicians to have backed the initiative, while Dragon’s Den star Deborah Meaden, Pointless quiz show host Richard Osman, former The Apprentice sidekick Nick Hewer and comedian Aisling Bea have also vowed to no longer engage with trolls.

Lineker, presenter of BBC’s Match Of The Day and ex-Tottenham Hotspur goal scorer, said he was determined to “show online trolls the red card” after seeing the racist abuse directed at young black Premier League footballers.

Lineker said: “We’ve all been shocked by the way in which racist trolls have been targeting footballers recently.

“It is frankly horrifying that they have done so in a calculated way to spread their abhorrent views. Let’s not allow the beautiful game to be tarnished in this way.

“Everyone across the sporting world will be grateful for this guide on how we can show online trolls the red card. Don’t rise to the bait, block the trolls and take some time out.”

CCDH’s report – co-authored by charity chief executive Imran Ahmed and Dr Linda Papadopoulos, a psychologist featured on television and previously contracted by the Home Office – discovered neo-Nazi groups in America had actively encouraged supporters to target public figures in a bid to widen their exposure.

The report, published on Monday, contains excerpts from a playbook produced by the US neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer, advising that the best way to gain “media attention and general infamy” is “to troll public figures and get them to whine about it”.

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