Dodds to pursue social media user over tweet mocking her dead son

A former Stormont minister is to pursue an anonymous Twitter account over a hurtful tweet referencing the death of her young son.

Diane Dodds was targeted on December 31 after posting a new year’s message to her followers.

She is to give a statement to police on Tuesday about the incident.

Mrs Dodds said she will be joined by a man whose father was killed by republican terrorists who has been “trolled relentlessly” by the same account.

The former Stormont Economy Minister also blasted the “inaction” of social media companies.

“When the tweet on New Year’s Eve was reported to Twitter, it came back and said that it didn’t breach their rules. It’s really difficult to understand what kind of rules and format for protecting the public that social media companies have if tweets like this do not breach their rules or standards,” she told BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show.

She contended that social media companies self-regulating “has not worked”, and said a new telecommunications Bill being considered at Westminster will “not have the teeth” to deal with the issue of abuse.

“Sometimes it seems that people who are in the public sphere are fair game for this kind of thing – abuse for doing your job or abuse because of your family circumstances or abuse because you’ve been the victim of terrorism is simply not right,” she said.

“And I don’t see anything in the new Bill that is to come before parliament that will actually deal with this feature of Twitter and Facebook where they can actually hide behind a cloak of anonymity so you don’t have to prove you are who you say you are in order to go on Twitter to abuse people, and Twitter may or may not give you information as to the account that is abusing you.

Former DUP MP Nigel Dodds with wife Diane (Paul Faith/PA)

“I think what is being proposed in the Bill is simply not effective, it will have no teeth in regulating these companies, and that we will need to regulate around the issue of online anonymity that allows people to say what they want and slope off into that cloak of anonymity and have no repercussions for their actions.”

Last year Health Minister Robin Swann was targeted with death threats on social media.

The post targeting Mrs Dodds has been widely condemned online.

She posted on Twitter to wish her followers a happy new year.

An anonymous user replied with an abusive response by making reference to her dead son, Andrew.

Andrew was born with spina bifida and died in 1998 just before his ninth birthday.

She described him as a fun-loving young boy, with an opinion on everything as well as very significant health problems and many stays in hospital.

Mrs Dodds said he died after suffering a cold which developed into pneumonia because he had a weak chest after being ventilated a number of times.

“I don’t think anyone will ever understand the impact that it has as a parent (to lose a child), but you learn to cope because when Andrew died I still had two other children, one was 12 and the other was two, you learn to live and to raise your family, but it is always there, it never goes away,” she said.

Mrs Dodds also thanked all who have shown her family support, adding what was meant for harm, “has actually generated a huge swell of kindness and goodwill and support”.

She said: “Everyone who has a right thought in their head was rightly appalled at that sort of action, it’s hugely harmful, hugely hurtful and damaging.

“If there is good to come from this, the reaction to that tweet and indeed subsequent messages that I am told he posted in conversations after the tweet, I think that the reaction to that shows that all right-thinking people were disgusted and disbelieving that someone could do something like that.

“Make no mistake about it, people who set out to do this kind of thing set out to harm. They are malicious and they are callous in what they do, and they set out to do it in a way that strikes at the very core of your being.

“I think on this occasion they failed in that sense because the reaction to what happened was so strong, but we should also recognise that this account has a pattern of abuse and that pattern of abuse includes trolling innocent victims of terrorism.”


Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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