Brianna Ghey’s mother says ‘trans hate’ targeting daughter on X is ‘horrendous’

16 February 2024, 11:24

Esther Ghey
LN101246. Picture: PA

Esther Ghey said she reported a comment about her daughter on the platform, formerly known as Twitter, but it was not taken down.

The mother of murdered teenager Brianna Ghey has said the “trans hate” aimed at her daughter when articles about her are posted on social media is “horrendous”.

Esther Ghey, 37, told the PA news agency she reported a comment about her daughter on X, formerly Twitter, but the company did not take it down, finding it did not breach their policies.

Ms Ghey said companies such as X have a “moral responsibility” to protect young people from harm online, after her daughter Brianna, who was transgender, struggled with her mental health, which was worsened by accessing eating-disorder and self-harm content on the platform.

She also said “nothing is in the diary yet” regarding a potential meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, but added: “I am hoping to arrange something soon after I’ve had a short break.”

She said she would like to “get his views” on online safety for young people and to discuss her Peace in Mind campaign to train more teachers in mindfulness.

“I’ve done a few interviews now and once the articles are posted on Twitter, the comments are absolutely horrendous, and there’s a lot of trans hate that’s directed to Brianna,” Ms Ghey said.

“Now, I’m all for free speech but I actually reported one of these comments and they came back to say that there was nothing wrong with what was being said.

“It’s just complete hate and I don’t think that there’s a place online for that.”

Ms Ghey expressed concern for children and young people seeing “this hateful way of speaking” and she would “like to sit down and speak to the regulators and social media companies”.

“(Social media companies) have got us into this mess now and it is their responsibility to get us out of it, and it’s something that we can all work on together,” she said.

“Social media companies and mobile phone companies have both got a moral responsibility to not think about profit so much and actually think about how their product is impacting the people who are using it.”

Esther Ghey
Esther Ghey said she reported a comment about her daughter to X but it was not taken down (Lucy North/PA)

She is campaigning for an age limit for smartphone usage and stricter controls on access to social media apps.

Asked what she thought of X owner Elon Musk describing himself as a “free speech absolutist”, she added: “If people can comment on posts that young people are putting up in such a disgusting way and when you report it, nothing happens, it’s a bit of a ridiculous title to call himself.”

Ms Ghey said the Online Safety Act does not go far enough.

Asked what she would say to those in Government and elsewhere who have said the Bill is strong enough to protect young people, Ms Ghey said: “Would they still be happy for their children to be scrolling on social media for the amount of time that most children are scrolling on social media once the act is in place?

“I think that, probably, I wouldn’t be.”

One of Brianna’s murderers accessed violent content on the dark web – a part of the internet which allows users to be untraceable – as they plotted to kill the teenager, and Ms Ghey said it was “absolutely shocking that a young person can access the dark web”.

She said: “Before all of this I didn’t even realise that the dark web was actually a thing.

“I thought it was like something that was just made up in films, and the fact that somebody who is 15 can access it is so disturbing, and it’s so worrying. It’s beyond belief really.”

Ms Ghey plans to meet the mother of Scarlett Jenkinson, one of her daughter’s murderers, although a date has not yet been arranged.

“When I do meet her, it’s going to be a very personal and very private thing between both of us,” she said.

Ms Ghey’s comments came as she announced £75,000 had been raised by Peace in Mind to train more teachers in mindfulness, a cognitive skill focused on being in the present moment.

Esther Ghey
Ms Ghey is campaigning with Emily Slater, chief executive of the Mindfulness in Schools Project, (right) (Lucy North/PA)

The campaign has raised enough money for a teacher in every school in her town of Warrington, Cheshire, to be trained in mindfulness, with ambitions to spread the campaign around the country.

“I feel that if we did have mindfulness in schools from a young age then that may have made [Brianna] more resilient, and she would have been less at risk of the things that she was going through when she was a teenager,” Ms Ghey said.

Ms Ghey recently discussed her campaign to get mindfulness taught in schools with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, which she said was “a really positive meeting”, although Sir Keir did not commit to banning smartphones for young people if Labour won the general election.

“We explained about mindfulness and how we would like to get into schools, and we gave him a roundabout costing and he would like to get more information and is happy to receive how much it would actually cost,” Ms Ghey said.

“I suppose that I understand that he can’t commit without having all of the information there, so I think the fact that he’s asked for that information is a very positive step in the right direction.”

Ms Ghey has found strength in building her daughter’s legacy, but added: “Obviously, I have bad days and my daughter struggles quite a bit still.

“We’ve completely changed our lives so we don’t notice the hole where Brianna was quite so much.

“We really made a conscious effort to remember her for all the good things and to remember her for who she was.”

Emily Slater, chief executive of the Mindfulness in Schools Project, which is receiving funds raised by Ms Ghey’s Peace in Mind campaign to train more teachers in mindfulness, said: “We have a fantastic representative in Esther, for parents and for common sense, and I think we’d be hard pressed to find many families at the moment, many parents, that aren’t asking themselves questions about mobile phone use or the wellbeing of their children and young people.”

Ms Ghey also on Thursday met Ian Russell, the father of 14-year-old Molly Russell, who took her own life in November 2017 after viewing harmful material on social media.

Speaking together to the BBC, Mr Russell told Ms Ghey that while “it’s never been that easy to be a teenager”, social media was providing a fresh challenge for young people to navigate.

He said: “We both lost children who had seen harmful things online and, in your case, there were other children involved who had been motivated to murder by what they’d seen online.

“It’s almost impossible for a parent to monitor and mirror and know what their children are doing and keep up with all the evolutions in all the tech platforms.”

X did not offer a response when contacted by PA.

By Press Association

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