The Duchess of York lashed out at online abuse and has demanded social media bosses take ownership of vile content on the web. Fergie said she rarely reads comments about herself as she knows trolls will have written nasty abuse. She said: “The truth is, a lot about these sites terrifies me. I rarely if ever go ‘below the line’ on social media or news websites and read people’s comments.
“I know that a lot say nice things, but there’s a large minority who seem to think that all the normal rules of society don’t apply to the internet.
“Take a look at any website, and you’ll see extraordinarily abusive comments aimed not only at people in the public eye but also other internet users.
“Bullying, sniping, bitching, even the most appalling sexism, racism and homophobia are commonplace – it seems that online, anything goes.”
The duchess has hit out at commenters “pitting” women against each other in a way which reminded her of how people portrayed her and the late Princess Diana.
In an open letter, published in Hello Magazine as part of their #HellotoKindness campaign, she added: “Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and me all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt.
“People feel licensed to say things online that they would never dream of saying to someone’s face, and that encourages others to pile in. It’s so ubiquitous that we’ve all become numb to what’s going on.
“There is good evidence that this online culture is having a detrimental impact on people’s mental health, particularly vulnerable young people.”
Her comments come after it emerged Meghan Markle and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge are receiving a rising amount of online abuse, with Kensington Palace staff reporting “hundreds and thousands” of vile comments aimed at the two Duchesses.
Sarah insisted it was “time to take a stand” against online abuse, demanding social media companies and news websites to tackle vicious commenters.
She said: “I believe that it’s time to take a stand. This isn’t about freedom of speech. The truth is, it’s not acceptable to post abuse or threats on social media or news sites, and it’s not acceptable to harangue other users simply because they disagree with you.
“It’s not acceptable to pit women against one another all the time. It’s not acceptable to troll other people viciously online.
“Social media companies and news websites need to do much more to take a stand against online abuse, rather than shrugging their shoulders and saying there’s nothing they can do about it.
“And we all, as individuals, need to take a step back and try to make sure that what we say online is responsible and fair.”
With a final message to online trolls, the duchess said: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”