Senior SNP MEP calls for ‘cybernat’ crackdown

Alyn Smith MEP has put forward plans for a new internet code of conduct. Picture: PA
Alyn Smith MEP has put forward plans for a new internet code of conduct. Picture: PA
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A senior SNP politician has called on his party’s leadership to crackdown on members with anonymous ‘cybernat’ social media accounts.

Alyn Smith MEP has put forward plans for a new internet code of conduct for Scottish Nationalists and urged other political parties to follow his lead in the hope it will curb Scotland’s tribal and often vicious social media arguments.

Mr Smith’s comments come after the real identities of some “cybernats” - the nickname for abusive independence supporters online - and their unionist counterparts were exposed after a series of scandals on Twitter and Facebook.

Speaking to The Herald , The MEP said: “I would like to see a specific code of conduct in my own party with four or five simple points that everyone agrees on, including a ban on the kind of anonymous accounts which seem to enable people to be so unpleasant.

“I also think all the parties, either through their leaders or their chief executives, could sign some kind of code of online decency. As an out-gay pro-European nationalist I am no stranger to abuse but I am fed up of whataboutery from one side or another.”

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All of Scotland’s political parties already have codes of conduct they can use to discipline members, who bring them in to disrepute.

Mr Smith said specific rules should be adopted for how people behave on social media platforms.

His calls come after the Conservatives in May were forced to act against two newly elected Stirling councillors. Alastair Majury and Robert Davies were investigated by the Scottish Conservatives over comments made from social media accounts.

Councillor Davies has been accused of sending racist posts from a Twitter account in 2013. The account was subsequently deleted.

The Scottish Catholic Observer reported that a Twitter account previously used by Mr Majury under the name Mulder1981 made reference to “Tarriers”, a historically derogatory name for Catholics.

In the 2015 general election, the SNP candidate for Edinburgh South, Neil Hay, was revealed as the anonymous Twitter profile called Paco McSheepie which suggested unionists were “quislings”, a term for Nazi collaborators. Mr Hay went on to lose at the election. Another senior SNP activist was revealed as being behind attacks on the late Liberal Democrat MP Charlie Kennedy.

Responding to Mr Smith’s proposals, Tory MSP Finlay Carson said: “Social media is a fantastic communication tool which has many benefits, but it’s also important we face up to the negative side it has brought too.

“It’s easy to see that the abuse dished out online can often get out of hand, and it’s incumbent on all of us to be more civil and use social media in the correct manner.

“Disagreement and debate can be good, but it must not cross the line.”

A spokesman for Labour said: “All forms of abuse are unacceptable, including online abuse.”