Normal person + internet anonymity = ?

Talking on <em>Woman's Hour</em> about sexist trolling online.

This morning, on Radio 4's Woman's Hour, I think I managed to shock Jane Garvey by relating some of the lowlights from the stories of sexist abuse I've been told in the last few weeks.

We talked about whether women get more abuse, how comment threads could be moderated and what percentage of commenters are abusive. "People are just really nasty on the internet," said my fellow guest Tamara Littleton, of e-Moderation.

We didn't have time to get into it on the programme, but one of the most interesting things to come out of the discussion is whether anonymity is the problem (you can see a light-hearted treatment of that here). I can see the arguments against insisting on real names -- because those in sensitive jobs may feel inhibited from commenting otherwise -- but I think that discussion forums should encourage users to invest in an identity, to take pride in their contributions.

The Guardian, for example, does this with commenters' profiles, so you can see everything a person has written and many sites require registration with an email address. Another interesting suggestion I've heard in the last couple of days is charging a nominal one-off fee - say 20p - for your first comment.

The NS's own David Allen Green, meanwhile, uses pre-moderation on his personal blog, and said this gives the comment section a "letters to the editor" feel.

You can listen to the segment from Woman's Hour here. It's about 20 minutes into the programme.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Jeremy Corbyn challenged by Labour MPs to sack Ken Livingstone from defence review

Former mayor of London criticised at PLP meeting over comments on 7 July bombings. 

After Jeremy Corbyn's decision to give Labour MPs a free vote over air strikes in Syria, tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) meeting was less fractious than it could have been. But one grandee was still moved to declare that the "ferocity" of the attacks on the leader made it the most "uplifting" he had attended.

Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary, told the meeting: "We cannot unite the party if the leader's office is determined to divide us." Several MPs said afterwards that many of those who shared Corbyn's opposition to air strikes believed he had mishandled the process by appealing to MPs over the heads of the shadow cabinet and then to members. David Winnick declared that those who favoured military action faced a "shakedown" and deselection by Momentum activists. "It is completely unacceptable. They are a party within a party," he said of the Corbyn-aligned group. The "huge applause" for Hilary Benn, who favours intervention, far outweighed that for the leader, I'm told. 

There was also loud agreement when Jack Dromey condemned Ken Livingstone for blaming Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq for the 7 July 2005 bombings. Along with Angela Smith MP, Dromey demanded that Livingstone be sacked as the co-chair of Labour's defence review. Significantly, Benn said aftewards that he agreed with every word Dromey had said. Corbyn's office has previously said that it is up to the NEC, not the leader, whether the former London mayor holds the position. In reference to 7 July, an aide repeated Corbyn's statement that he preferred to "remember the brilliant words Ken used after 7/7". 

As on previous occasions, MPs complained that the leader failed to answer the questions that were put to him. A shadow minister told me that he "dodged" one on whether he believed the UK should end air strikes against Isis in Iraq. In reference to Syria, a Corbyn aide said afterwards that "There was significant support for the leader. There was a wide debate, with people speaking on both sides of the arguments." After David Cameron's decision to call a vote on air strikes for Wednesday, leaving only a day for debate, the number of Labour MPs backing intervention is likely to fall. One shadow minister told me that as few as 40-50 may back the government, though most expect the total to be closer to the original figure of 99. 

At the end of another remarkable day in Labour's history, a Corbyn aide concluded: "It was always going to be a bumpy ride when you have a leader who was elected by a large number outside parliament but whose support in the PLP is quite limited. There are a small number who find it hard to come to terms with that result."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.