Sonja McLaughlan abuse: Social media companies urged to end anonymity

Television rugby reporter Lauren Jenkins says that social media users must be made to confirm their identity after the BBC’s Sonja McLaughlan was subjected to online abuse following Saturday’s Guinness Six Nations game between Wales and England.

Sonja McLaughlan was subjected to online abuse for her post-match interview with England captain Owen Farrell. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Sonja McLaughlan was subjected to online abuse for her post-match interview with England captain Owen Farrell. Picture: Michael Steele/Getty Images

England Rugby and the Welsh Rugby Union have sent support to McLaughlan, who described how she had been reduced to tears by abuse on social media after her post-match interviews that included questions to England captain Owen Farrell and head coach Eddie Jones.

The Principality Stadium clash, won 40-24 by Wales was dominated by two controversial refereeing decisions.

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And Jenkins, who works as a freelance reporter and presenter for the BBC, Premier Sports and Welsh channel S4C, says social media anonymity can no longer be allowed to happen.

“For me, the only way is getting users to confirm their identity,” Jenkins said.

“The sad thing is that calls for identity verification have been around for years and we don’t seem to be getting any closer to that.

“But it is a multi-layered issue. Some predict that could discriminate against the poorest in society. I think around a billion people don’t have official identification.

“I would say I limit my (social media) use these days. I think twice about tweeting things and probably am less controversial than I would be in person because I can’t be bothered to entertain the responses.

“Twitter can be a really awful beast sometimes and no-one should ever be reduced to tears for doing their job.

“It can actually be quite a lonely job at times. In this environment you are often alone watching the match and yet suddenly part of a million different households with just a few minutes to cover what was a ridiculously-eventful match.

“It is unbelievably tough and Sonja has years of experience. The thought that the very first thing she encounters after that is a wave of abuse is very sad.”

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The Welsh Rugby Union, meanwhile has joined England Rugby in condemning social media abuse directed at England players and members of the media following Saturday’s encounter.

England prop Ellis Genge revealed he had been subjected to death threats after footage surfaced of him apparently neglecting to clap the victorious Welsh players off the pitch following a match that Wales won 40-24.

In a statement, the WRU said: “We are hugely disappointed and saddened by the social media abuse directed at opposition players and members of the media following the game at the weekend.

“As a rugby community, these individuals have let us all down. This has to stop. It is not acceptable.”

England Rugby issued a statement on Sunday in which it urged “true rugby fans” to resist and reject such incidences of abuse.

The statement read: “Respect is a core value of rugby. Yesterday we lost to Wales who deserved their victory.

“Unfortunately, some of the reaction on social media to players and the team has not shown the level of respect the rugby community prides itself on.

“We will support our players and team against online abuse and hope true rugby fans will stand with us.”

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