MPs debate TOWIE star’s call for online homophobia to be made a hate crime

A petition started by The Only Way is Essex star Bobby Norris that seeks to make online homophobia a criminal offence has been debated in parliament by MPs.

Norris’s petition calling for a new law against online homophobic abuse, which he set up in February 2019, has been signed by more than 150,000 people.

“As a gay man I find it devastating how members of the LGBT community are still subjected to homophobic abuse online,” Norris said on the petition site.

“Just because I am on TV I don’t think that makes it acceptable to be sent homophobic messages/ comments on social media platforms,” he said.

“Nobody should have to receive these comments.”

Norris, 32, has been sent death threats and had people “wish cancer” on him because of his sexuality.

Daniel Zeichner, the Labour MP who started the debate, said politicians had failed to “get to grips” with regulating the social-media companies involved.

“The promotion of this kind of content contributes to an environment where problematic language and ideas are completely normalised, meaning there’s a degree of desensitisation,” he said.

“We must row back from this and take online homophobia for what its is: hate speech that must not be accepted,” Zeichner added.

Homophobia online is ‘utterly cowardly’

Conservative MP Jeremy Howell said online homophobic abuse is “utterly cowardly.”

“This is a very important subject, not just for gay people but for all of us to show our common humanity in this area… and the protection of human rights,” Howell said.

Angela Eagle, a lesbian Labour MP, was critical about the lack of urgency in addressing the issue.

“Whilst the Law Commission review is welcome, it’s never been and can never be an active and effective way to take rapid action against a growing threat” Eagle said.

The Home Office said hate crimes are already crimes, according to the BBC, but asked the Law Commission to review whether current hate-crime legislation is sufficient.