Social media influencers fear for their safety due to online threats

Popular Instagram influencer Em Sheldon spoke to MPs about the daily abuse she faces online and how change is needed.

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A female social media influencer has given evidence to the UK’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee regarding the “relentless” abuse she receives from online trolls.

Em Sheldon, who has more 118,000 followers on Instagram, makes a living posting about fashion, travel, and fitness. However, she said the online abuse has gotten so severe that she does not feel comfortable leaving the house on her own.

She told MPs: “People think they have a right to know where I live, who my friends and families are and so on.”

Sheldon believes that these people are upset that influencers like her can make money online.

Social media influencers typically create content to promote goods and services on their platforms. This is possible when influencers grow a loyal online following. But this comes with “a dark space of the internet” where people feel they are free to attack her.

Having Accountability Online

In response to such examples of online abuse, a petition has been launched by former model Katie Price calling for more verified forms of identification on social media platforms. This, she belives, would make the perpetrators of online abuse more accountable and keep influencers safe.

Sheldon added: “If you block people they make 10 other accounts,” highlighting how a lot more will need to be done to see improvement for social media influencers.

However, removing the choice of anonymity for users “is not the magic solution people say it is”, according to Dr Francesca Sobande, a Digital Media Studies lecturer at Cardiff University.

“We do help each other”

During the Queen’s speech in May, a draft of an Online Safety Bill was announced. As a result, social media would have an increased responsibility to monitor and remove dangerous and illegal content.

Sheldon addressed what little is done now amongst other influencers, saying: “We don’t have a union but we do help each other.

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