The Only Way Is Essex star Bobby Norris has said online abuse has risen during the coronavirus lockdown and that he is getting “almost daily” death threats.
The reality star, 33, has been open about being the victim of homophobic abuse online and is calling for a clamp down on trolling.
Giving evidence to the Commons petitions committee, Norris revealed he is bombarded with death threats and that some trolls even urge him to take his own life.
Addressing MPs via video link, he said: “I have seen such an increase in online abuse and trolling, especially since lockdown, and since speaking about it to my fans and followers on social media I’m so aware that it’s not just me and people in the public eye going through it.”
Norris, who started appearing on TOWIE in 2012, said he had almost become immune to the abuse but feared others targeted in the same way as him might not be able to cope as well.
“I think I’ve become immune almost to the online hatred and homophobia, it’s devastating that I’ve had to build immunity to it,” he said.
“Whenever I experience any kind of online hate it’s always to do with my sexuality.
“As a gay man of 33 I think I’ve built up quite a thick skin and I’m very aware that I do have a strength, that is not to say it doesn’t hurt and it’s certainly not right, but I’ve built up this immunity.
“I’m very aware that 14-year-old Bobby would not have had that strength. And I hear from so many people, whether it’s parents or people suffering themselves, saying how is it 2020 and we are still having to face this and nothing is being done about it?”
Norris said there is still a misconception that what is said online doesn’t matter, that it is not the same as saying it to someone’s face.
“I believe trolling is abuse and the content is often a hate crime, whether that’s homophobia or racism or anything, if it’s a hate crime offline, it should be online,” he said.
The reality star wants changes to be implemented to make online trolls traceable, for example by people having to use ID to set up social media accounts.
He said he believed there would be a decrease in trolling if people knew that they were traceable and that their actions would have repercussions.