As part of a wide-ranging social media blackout former England star Austin Healey has detailed some of the online abuse directed at him, admitting that it has affected the former scrumhalf in his day-to-day life.
This weekend sports teams, media outlets and stakeholders in the UK have withdrawn from social media in a bid to send a message to help end online abuse in what’s been called the ‘Draw the Line’ campaign. In rugby, the extent to which online abuse has risen was highlighted during the Guinness Six Nations, with England prop Ellis Genge sent death threats and the BBC’s Sonja McLaughlan left in tears in her car after trolls took exception to how she interviewed Owen Farrell.
Healey, who says he’s blocked about 20,000 trolls on Twitter, spoke candidly with BT Sport about the campaign and the level of vitriol directed at him.
“Pretty much every single day since I went on social media back in 2012, I’ve had varying levels of hate speech.
“It does add up, it does build up on you. Even if you are really thick-skinned and you can take things with a pinch of salt, when you’re getting a thousand a day, it does change your psychology somewhat.
“It does make you more aggressive, it does make you more snappy with your kids.
“It’s a bit like when you read a story about the Royal Family and it says ‘a friend of the family said this’. Put a name to it, stand by your words."https://t.co/LozSjoYyLH
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 30, 2021
“You do find problems are slightly bigger, even if you think it isn’t affecting you, it does affect you.”
Healey, who won over 50 caps for England and two Test caps for the British and Irish Lions, says that abuse referencing his family has maybe hurt him the most.
“Particularly bad ones are when they include your family. I’ve had ones where they’ve said I hope your daughters die, I hope your wife gets cancer. Horrendous abuse, like horrendous stuff.
“I think anonymity has to go. I think there’s no place for it. People have to take responsibility for their actions, as you do in day-to-day life. It’s your decision ultimately what you’re going to say to people, and if you would say it to them in the street, then maybe type it. If you have the courage to say it in the street and hurt them, then ask yourself the question, what sort of person you are?’
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