An East Lancashire politician has spoken in the Commons about how she faced a barrage of online abuse after she became an MP.

During a debate about online anonymity and abuse, MP for Hyndburn, Sara Britcliffe said: “Online abuse increased when I became the MP for Hyndburn, including death threats, threats against my friends, family and just a constant barrage of abuse, and I can’t pretend that sometimes those words haven’t affected me and given me sleepless nights worrying about my own wellbeing and that of my loved ones.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Conservative MP for Stroud, Siobhan Baillie, suggested giving all social media users the chance to be verified and to also choose to block all unverified accounts en masse.

Opening the debate, Ms Baillie recalled receiving an “outpouring of venom” after taking four weeks maternity leave following the birth of her daughter.

She said: “Attacking somebody for being a mum or suggesting a mum cannot do the job of an MP is misogynistic and, quite frankly, ridiculous.

"But I’d be lying if I said I did not find it very upsetting, especially at a time where I could barely move and I needed to work out how to feed my new baby.”

During the debate, on Wednesday afternoon, ministers were told that online anonymity “undermines democracy” and a PayPal-style identity verification system should be required on social media platforms.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Labour’s Dame Margaret Hodge said she has received abusive, racist and misogynistic messages when challenging “Jew hate”, telling the Commons: “Some are very offensive – ‘I hope she dies soon’, ‘dumb b**ch’.”

The former minister continued reading out abuse she had received, adding: “Ending anonymity for those who promulgate hate or harm is key to effectively combating it.

“We must compel social media companies to be able to identify all users.

"We know that’s easily done, take the online payment company PayPal.

"Everyone using PayPal must provide their identity when setting up an account.

"A user’s identity is not public but it can be traced if required.

“If social media companies acted similarly, then those who use online anonymity for good – such as whistle-blowers, victims of child abuse or domestic abuse – could continue to do so, but those who use anonymity to spread harmful content would be identifiable and could be then dealt with by the appropriate authorities.”

Dame Margaret earlier highlighted the “tsunami” of racist abuse directed at footballers, including Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford, telling MPs: “Far from nurturing debate, anonymity undermines democracy.”

Lancashire Telegraph: Sara and her father, Peter BritcliffeSara and her father, Peter Britcliffe

It's not the first time Ms Britcliffe has spoken out in the commons about "trolls", as during a debate on March 11, for International Women's Day, the Hyndburn MP criticised the so-called online bullies for using her age, looks and gender as “weapons” in a bid to undermine her confidence.

Ms Britcliffe told the Commons that women still have “significant battles” to face whenever they try to “succeed, progress or do something to make a difference”.

Ms Britcliffe, who at 26 is the youngest Conservative MP in the House, read out insults aimed at her since the 2019 election.

MPs heard these included: “A little girl incapable of thinking for herself”, “a cut and paste MP”, “out of her depth”, “a pygmy”, and “lower than vermin”.

Speaking during the International Women’s Day debate, Ms Britcliffe said: “I’ve been objectified, patronised and threatened on more occasions than I care to count.

“My age, my looks, particularly my gender have been used as weapons to try and undermine my confidence and ‘put me back in my place’.

“But sadly my experiences are not unique or even a minority.

“Indeed, I’d be surprised if we could find one female Member of Parliament across this whole House who has not had some kind of threat or abuse or just casual sexism during their time in office.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Ms Britcliffe said she expected her decision to highlight the abuse she had faced would encourage the “trolls, the incels and the other people who like to see me as a target”.

But she insisted that “silence is no longer an option” and the issues must be raised to “break the norm”.

She added: “I’m not saying this to suggest I am a unique victim, I’m saying this because it’s a widespread experience for women and we all need to stand up because it’s got to stop.”