Tory MP calls for 'David’s law' to crack down on anonymous abuse online

19 October 2021, 06:36 | Updated: 19 October 2021, 07:44

By Emma Soteriou

A Tory MP has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to introduce 'David's law', which would prevent people sending anonymous abuse online.

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It comes after Sir David Amess was stabbed to death at a constituency surgery on Friday, sparking questions over the safety of MPs.

Speaking during the tributes in the House of Commons on Monday, Conservative MP Mark Francois - who represents Rayleigh and Wickford - called for the Government to 'toughen up' the Online Harms Bill.

"In the last few years David had become increasingly concerned about what he called the toxic environment in which MPs, particularly female MPs were having to operate in," he said.

Read more: Labour MP Kim Leadbeater: Sir David Amess was an MP for the right reasons

The MP hit out at the founders of Facebook and Twitter, telling the Commons: "If the social media companies don't want to help us drain the Twitter swamp, then let's compel them to do it by law because they've had more than enough chances to do it voluntarily."

He added: "He was appalled by what he called the vile misogynistic abuse which female MPs had to endure online and he told me very recently that he wanted something done about it."

Read more: Southend to get city status in honour of Sir David Amess, Boris Johnson says

Mr Francois went on to say: "Surely we can all agree that we came here to try for which we are now systematically vilified day after day... I suggest that if we want to ensure that our colleague didn't die in vain, we collectively all of us pick up the baton, regardless of our party and take the forthcoming Online Harms Bill and toughen it up markedly.

"So let's put, if I may be so presumptuous, David's law onto the statute book, the essence of which would be that while people in public life must remain open to legitimate criticism, they can no longer be vilified or their families subject to the most horrendous abuse, especially from people who hide behind a cloak of anonymity with the connivance of the social media companies for profit."

It comes after Sir Iain Duncan Smith revealed to LBC that he had received a chilling death threat just days after Sir David's death.

However, a spokesman for the Prime Minister said politicians must not be "cowed by those who seek to divide us".

"MPs may rightly be concerned about security, they've been contacted by police to discuss their activities and events so their arrangements can be reviewed," the spokesman said.

"But while individual arrangements should rightly remain a matter for individual MPs and police, the Prime Minister shares the concerns with a number of MPs and ministers that this attack cannot get in the way of democracy.

"We will not be cowed by those who seek to divide us and spread hate and the PM has been struck by the bravery and commitment to serving constituents expressed by many MPs following Sir David's death."

Boris Johnson led the tributes to Sir David in the Commons on Monday, with two hours set aside for politicians to share their memories of the Conservative MP for Southend West.