Commons committee to hear TOWIE star’s evidence on homophobic abuse

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A House of Commons committee will hear evidence from a star of The Only Way is Essex as part of their investigation into online abuse.

Bobby Norris, who has been was subject to homophobic abuse since first appearing in the public eye in ITV2 show The Only Way is Essex in 2012, will be giving evidence in front of the Petitions Committee tomorrow (Thursday), after his petition on tackling online abuse received more than 133,000 signatures.

The event will take place over videolink as the UK enters its ninth week of lockdown and coincides with concerns over the effect of coronavirus and social distancing on mental health, as people have spent more time online and on social media.

Mr Norris’ petition entitled “hold online trolls accountable for their online abuse via their IP address” is calling for abusers to have their access to social media blocked by internet service providers and social media companies.

Speaking on social media he said:  “It’s time to finally put a stop to this.

“The government and MPs want to hear more about it and I am so grateful that they are sitting up and listening. I really feel like we are one step closer to ending the trend to troll.

“A lot of you know I receive death threats and homophobic messages daily and it isn’t just me. There are tens of thousands of people suffering from this day in day out and it is for every one of them that I am doing this because we need to change the law here. Something needs to happen, let’s end the trend to troll.”

Catherine McKinnell MP, chairman of the Petitions Committee, said: “I’m pleased that Bobby is able to share his personal experiences of online abuse with the committee during Mental Health Awareness Week.

“Highlighting these issues in parliament is so vital for raising awareness, and can shine a light on the action that can be taken to help stamp out this all too common problem.

“Online abuse can affect anyone, and takes many forms. It is a subject that is very close to my heart, and something that the Petitions Committee investigated extensively in the last parliament.

“But with online abuse as prevalent as ever, and coronavirus meaning people are on social media more than ever, it is imperative we take steps to tackle online abuse and stamp it out.”

The evidence session is the first step from the Petitions Committee in their new inquiry on tackling online abuse. The inquiry will consider issues raised in a number of petitions from the last parliament and follow up on the committee’s previous inquiry into online abuse and the experiences of disabled people.

More details on the inquiry will be announced following the session.

The evidence session will start at 11am on Thursday. The session will be broadcast live on Parliament TV.

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter