Wales politics

Twitter: Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood suffered 'vile' abuse

Leanne Wood Image copyright Getty Images

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has revealed some abuse directed at her on social media site Twitter was "vile."

Two people have been in court for abusing Ms Wood - one referred to rape and the other about shooting her.

The Rhondda AM said she tried to have a "no blocking or banning" approach, but some tweets to her crossed the line.

"I've got quite a thick skin... but I don't think we should just accept threats of rape or shootings," she said.

Twitter this week announced a mute button, which enables users to not see tweets from individual accounts, would be being extended to prevent tweets containing chosen key words or phrases appearing in the notifications bar.

A man was jailed for 12 weeks in July for tweeting Ms Wood and making references to rape.

Another man was given a community sentence earlier this month for tweeting: "Shame someone didn't shoot Leanne Wood though."

The court was told this tweet was sent less than two weeks after the shooting of Labour MP Jo Cox.

Ms Wood told BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement programme that the tweets referred to the police had "crossed a line".

Image copyright South Wales Police
Image caption David Begley was jailed for remarks made to Leanne Wood on Twitter

"They were abusive, they were vile in fact," she said.

"I felt it was important to take a stand because people shouldn't have to put up with that kind of abuse anywhere."

The politician said making comments about Brexit or the election of Donald Trump as president of America elicited an online backlash.

"I've noticed since Brexit there has been a particular trolling tendency of UKIP supporters," Ms Wood added.

"Anything I post about Europe at all on Facebook, suddenly an avalanche of UKIP supporters, lots of them live in England.

"But what I noticed last week after the election of Donald Trump in the US; I posted something up about that and suddenly I had all these Donald Trump supporters that were equally if not even more full of bile."

She admitted online abuse was not exclusive to politicians.

Despite the insults, Ms Wood said Twitter was a "great platform" and after her appearance on the TV election debates last year, she said her and her party's followers on social media "shot up".

She added: "Social media is an important way to reach people, especially young people, and I can think it can facilitate good, positive, open, democratic debate; no-one controls the content.

"So that freedom is excellent, but it does have its downside as well."

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