Healthy debate and the freedom to express different opinions are the cornerstones of democracy and should be protected at all costs.
But when this turns, as it seems to so often on social media, to faceless personal attacks and threats, then those responsible should feel the full force of the law. It is disgusting to learn today that city Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton has suffered abuse so bad that he has been issued with a personal panic alarm. Whatever your opinion of his politics, Mr Cole Hamilton is an elected representative and should be free to do his job without fearing for his safety.
It is another depressing example of the state of debate in the UK today; a poisonous atmosphere which has allowed extreme views to be tolerated and in turn led to increasing personal attacks which go unchallenged. This is not a case of ‘sticks and stones’. These words, as we know all too tragically, do cause hurt by legitimising the most vile vitriol.
Social media companies must do more, the police must take these cases seriously, and hefty sentences should follow. The trolls have been allowed to hide for too long. It’s time to call them out.