The Countryside Alliance is urging gamekeepers and hunt staff to take part in an online survey to coincide with new legislation that aims to crack down on criminal and harmful activity online. 

Last month the government published its Online Safety Bill which it claims is “a milestone in the fight for a new digital age which is safer for users and holds tech giants to account”.

Farmers, gamekeepers, hunt staff, meat processors and many others that work with or in the rural community have been the targets of online hate campaigns and the Alliance is keen to ensure that their voices are heard as the Bill goes through parliament.

The rural organisation wants to tackle the encouragement or incitement of both criminal and harmful online activity including the secondary targeting of businesses, which includes butchers and abattoirs. Animal rights activists, including some working for registered charities, have long run campaigns encouraging aggressive online activity targeting companies associated with farmers involved in the badger cull, shoots and hunts amongst others. In recent years negative reviews of pubs and restaurants on sites like Tripadvisor from people who have never set foot in those establishments have also become a common tool of extremists.

A previous survey of the rural community, found that 62% of respondents reported having experienced online bullying while 78% believed the problem was getting worse year. A staggering 89% of businesses who took part said they had received online abuse.

David Bean, Parliamentary and Government Affairs manager at the Countryside Alliance said: “ To make the case for effective legislation to the government and MPs we need those victims of online bullying to help in updating our research and gathering case studies to illustrate the impact that online abuse can have on rural communities. We know from our own past work that there are many people out there that suffer from online harm daily. The time has come and we must do all we can to tackle this scourge and crack down on those that operate their campaigns of hate from the murky corners of the internet.”

The results from the survey will be used to put forward to parliamentarians.It can be found here or by visiting www.countryside-alliance.org/online-safety-bill

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