Hate speech in a small town

Richard Lutz reports on how mob rule terror can invade a small town.

Amy Fenton, below, is a reporter for an evening paper in the Cumbrian town of Barrow in Furness, tucked away just south of The Lake District.

Tonight, with her five year old child, she is in hiding with the help of police because of mob rule. She reported on a court case and those who didn’t like the story’s facts mis-used social media and hounded her, threatened her, warned they would rape her. The fire brigade fit anti-arson devices on her letterbox. But the poison of anonymous threats over the court case, which she professionally covered, was overwhelming. Last week, police advised her and her daughter to leave Barrow. She did. Amy Fenton was hounded out of town.

This mob rule via the Internet is terrorism. Amy, like hundreds of other reporters, was doing her job, informing the people of Barrow with news, local news, that is fast becoming more rare as papers shut down.

But the cretins confused the actual court proceedings with her ability to accurately report them. Her editor, of course, backs her work and said The Mail in Barrow is resolved to report the news no matter how fearful the digital terror becomes. It is a brave and commendable step, and one not without its dark ironies. The vermin that mis-use the Internet and platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter send out garbage that is libellous, inflammatory and downright illegal. But these are the people who threaten violence to a young woman who writes within the stricture of law.

So, what are the social media bosses doing to regulate the vomit coming off their sites? Nothing. They remain unregulated or hide behind gratuitously lame rules of self regulation and allow garbage from Trump to go live as well as mob rule poison in Cumbria alongside pictures of cute kittens or the hamburger you ate last night.

And that brings us back to Amy Fenton. Initially, Amy went to the Cumbrian police as the threats began, according to reports that have emerged recently. But shockingly, officers told her they had to balance the right to an individual’s freedom of speech with Amy Fenton’s right to be safe.

Tonight, as she puts her little child to bed somewhere, she must be mulling over that comment from the very police force that last week warned her to leave town for her own safety. And the safety of her daughter.


2 thoughts on “Hate speech in a small town

  1. I am increasingly angered by the confusion being put out there that sets the ‘freedom of speech’ mantra against what seems to be a growing acceptance of freedom to engage in hate crime. Surely the police should be much more exercised about the latter!! There is legislation in place and they seem relaxed enough to ignore it!

  2. Dreadful, are there any practical actions we can take to support Amy or to use her story to put pressure on Facebook etc.?

Comments are closed.