TOWIE star says online abuse has increased during lockdown

The Only Way Is Essex star Bobby Norris has said online trolls should be punished in a similar way to motorists who repeatedly break the rules, as he claimed the abuse he gets has increased during the coronavirus lockdown.

Giving evidence to the Petitions Committee as part of his campaign to tackle online abuse, the reality star – who found fame on the ITV2 show in 2012 – said he receives death threats on a daily basis.

The 33-year-old revealed he has been told to kill himself, and said he had become strong enough not to act on the abuse after building up “quite a thick skin” and becoming almost “immune” to the abuse.

But he told MPs he fears others being targeted might not be able to cope in the same way.

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The star has given evidence to the Petitions Committee

Calling on social media companies to do more by tracing the trolls and “taking away their privilege”, Norris said: “If you don’t use your driving licence appropriately, you can have it revoked.

“If you don’t use social media appropriately, you should have it revoked.”

He continued: “I believe there is still this thing in people’s minds where they think what they say online doesn’t matter and it’s not the same as saying it to someone’s face, but it is.”

Norris added: “I believe trolling is abuse and the content is often a hate crime, whether it’s homophobia or racism.

“If it’s a hate crime offline, it should be online. People shouldn’t be losing their lives, taking their lives, or locking themselves in their house or in the bedrooms.

“We have come so far in terms of homophobia, but we have still got a long way to go.”

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Norris also said that education had a key part to play, saying: “We have to nip this in the bud from education age, no child is born a troll but they are taught it’s acceptable.”

He also suggested users should to have to give a form of identification when signing up for social media accounts, adding that trolls should have their IP addresses flagged so they cannot set up new profiles if they are reported.

Norris added: “I have seen such an increase in online abuse and trolling, especially since lockdown.

“Since speaking about it to my fans and followers on social media, I’m so aware that it’s not just me and people in the public eye going through it.”

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Norris wants social media companies to do more

A parliamentary spokesman has said there is no set length for the inquiry, but that a report would eventually be submitted to the government for consideration.

The committee hearing was arranged after more than 130,000 people signed an online petition launched by Norris, calling for trolls to be held “accountable for their online abuse”.