Social media’s ‘toxic elements’ criticised by mental health minister

Fianna Fáil’s Mary Butler expects lack of laws to deal with online abuse will be ‘corrected’ soon

Minister of State for Older People and Mental Health Mary Butler has criticised toxic abuse posted on social media.

Minister of State for Older People and Mental Health Mary Butler has criticised toxic abuse posted on social media.

 

The Minister of State for Mental Health criticised the “absolutely toxic” elements of social media as she recalled being encouraged to kill herself by a man on Facebook earlier this year.

Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler, who was appointed to the role on Wednesday, said there was not much legislation in place to deal with online abuse legally, but that she believed this would be “corrected very soon”.

Ms Butler said she had deleted her Facebook account after being abused online and does “not miss it one bit”.

“There are some horrendous comments,” the Waterford TD told Déise Today on WLR FM. “I have had some sent to me privately as well. I received an email last Saturday night from a person absolutely delighted that I wasn’t a minister, hoping and praying that I wouldn’t be a junior minister.”

Worst abuse

Ms Butler said the worst piece of abuse was received on the night before February’s general election - a Facebook message saying she should take her own life. She said she had gone to bed and that her daughter (23) saw the message arrive, and this left her “hysterical”.

“She said to Michael, my husband, ‘please give me mam’s phone. I don’t want her to see something’,” Ms Butler said.

“I had to stay up two hours with her that night, trying to calm her down, absolutely hysterical that somebody would actually put that up on Facebook about me, and had no problem putting it up.

“I was able to go into that person’s page and see that he had daughters of his own. I just thought to myself ‘what is wrong with people?’”

Withour fear

Ms Butler said she finds “there are some social media elements that are absolutely toxic” and that people can set up an account anonomously and then say “anything you like about any person without fear or favour”.

Earlier this year, Ms Butler reported a fake Facebook page to gardaí, which she said was used to create the impression that she was “dismissive of victims of child sexual abuse”. She said on Thursday that an investigation was ongoing.