Carol Monaghan wants better protection for public figures after online abuse turned into a “credible” death threat.
A Glasgow MP who had to be shielded in a police safe house after a death threat, wants women in public life to have more protection.
Carol Monaghan feared for her and her family’s lives when online abuse turned into the detailed threat.
Earlier this month Jonathan Bell, 35, admitted a course of conduct which caused her fear or alarm.
The SNP MP for Glasgow North West says social media companies must take action to end misogynistic abuse.
Twitter said it takes action against accounts which violate rules on abuse and harassment.
Like most women in politics, Ms Monaghan has always received attacks via her social media accounts.
But after a series of offensive tweets emerged from a particular individual, the attacks turned sinister.
Messages she was sent included references to murdered MP Jo Cox.
Then her constituency office in Partick was targeted, with windows being smashed.
While the MP was in London, the office front was splattered with ketchup.
“When my staff came in it was quite a disturbing thing to see,” she told BBC Scotland’s The Seven programme.
“It was obviously meant to look like blood across the windows. That was the start of the physical activities.”
Things got worse when a death threat was made against her.
“It was phoned in and it contained enough details about my personal life, enough detail to cause the police to take it seriously,” she explained.
“I got a call from my office manager. The police had contacted him to say there was what they considered to be a credible threat.
“They weren’t necessarily sure I should come back to Glasgow. But I was keen that I did come back to Glasgow – my family were here.”
Ms Monaghan was terrified for her family.
She said: “Because of the personal nature of the threat and the personal details, I knew he knew where I lived, I knew he knew who my kids were. I just had to be there.
“That evening when we came back from the police station to the house, the police wouldn’t let us into the house until the whole area had been searched.
“They spent the night outside the house and very early the next morning we left and went to a safe place.”
Bell harassed the SNP MP between January and April 2019.
At Glasgow Sheriff Court he pled guilty to causing fear or alarm. He will be sentenced next month.
Ms Monaghan puts a lot of what happened down to social media. She has endured a stream of abuse and has tried unsuccessfully to engage the platforms to deal with it.
“Social media gives people a platform, it gives them a way of directly contacting a person – at any time of the day or night,” she said
“It gives them the opportunity to say things anonymously. It gives them a whole lot of protection that the target of their abuse does not have.”
Ms Monaghan believes any woman in a public role is party to this abuse, and says she has been told told to “grow a thick skin” and get used to it.
But, she says: “Really, why should we take that level of abuse? We wouldn’t accept it in a workplace, but we are just supposed to take it and somehow we are to blame if we don’t.”
She is calling for safeguards to be put in place. Her main issue is with people being untraceable.
“This idea that an abuser on Twitter can stay anonymous cannot be right,” she said.
“I understand some people want to interact on Twitter anonymously for the best of reasons but there is also a huge hiding place for people who want to put more sinister stuff out there. We need a way of identifying users and take action against them for tweets that are offensive.”
The MP has considered giving up politics because of the abuse, saying it wears her down. But although she says she is not planning to go yet, she admits she would probably not want any of her three daughters to go into politics.
She will keep pushing for change.
“Longer term, we need to consider how we deal with people in public-facing roles and how we put protections in place for them to ensure they can go about their jobs in a normal manner.
“I live here in Glasgow and I represent the area where I live and I love to walk about in this area. I don’t want that to change. And I don’t want it to change as a result of this.”
In response, Twitter said: “Abuse and harassment have no place on our service. We have clear rules in place that apply to everyone, everywhere, that address threats of violence,abuse and harassment and hateful conduct, and we take action when we identify accounts that violate these rules.”