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Updated on May 27, 2016

Girls as young as 15 are expected to "brush off" threats of rape and violence online, MPs heard today.

Politicians from across the spectrum came together to launch Reclaim The Internet, agroup committed to stamping out trolling and abuse on social media.

They heard from Kathryne, a representative of Girl Guiding UK, who said the organisation's research showed two in five girls between 11 and 21 have faced bullying on social media.

Kathryne shared stories of an 18-year-old friend who had been threatened with rape after tweeting about feminism, and a 16-year-old who was trolled on Instagram by a "strange man" making sexual comments on any pictures she posted of her legs.

She added: "The worst part of this is that she felt guilty, like it was her fault, and she'd been asking for it."

"Trolling and abuse online must not be seen by girls as the consequence of speaking out online. They shouldn't have to learn to deal with it.

"It's never fair to expect a 15-year-old girl to brush off threats of rape."

Labour MP Stella Creasy illustrated the abuse seen by women who speak out on progressive issues by inviting people at the launch to look at her own Twitter account.

Even as the launch event was going on, she'd been sent a tweet which read: "stop taking it seriously. Shut the f*** up or I'll rape you", among a stream of hostile messages.

Jennifer Moses of the NASUWT said the teaching union's research shows female teachers are increasingly subjected to threats of violence and rape from students and even teachers.

She said there was a "growing sexualised nature of online abuse seen by women teachers."

Reclaim the Internet, led by Labour's Yvette Cooper , Stella Creasy and Jess Phillips, Lib Dem Jo Swinson and Tory minister Maria Miller, will hold a conference next month.

They plan to invite suggestions from industry figures and the public on ways that online abuse can be reduced.

Also on the panel were Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Mumsnet founder Justine Roberts.

Both figures said it was possible for social networks to allow anonymity and still crack down on abuse without the need for legislation.

They agreed sites like Twitter needed to look at the way their terms of service and web design is set up, to encourage 'community moderation'.

Mr Wales said social networks need to "give people the tools they need to control their environment."


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