Former Wigan councillor reveals online abuse horror

Karen Aldred
Karen Aldred
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A former councillor has spoken out about abuse she faced online, which she believes led to her failing to be re-elected.

Karen Aldred, who represented Atherton on Wigan Council until last week’s local election, described the comments posted on social media as “horrendous”.

They were not just aimed at her, but also her family, her children, her locksmith business and a dementia charity she is involved with.

In one incident, police were called after someone threatened to smash her windows.

Mrs Aldred, a member of the Labour party, said: “What I have seen on social media is appalling. It’s personally attacking me and my family.

“We have a local business and employ local people and they have attacked that, which could affect people’s jobs. It’s been horrendous.

“They have even brought in relatives of mine and accused them of doing things.”

Mrs Aldred does not use social media, but has been told about the abuse by friends and relatives.

Some comments were deleted after they were challenged, she said, but people had already read them.

She fears people believed the comments made about her and those close to her and decided not to vote for her, leading to her losing her council seat.

She said: “I’m so frustrated at how this has been. I have not lost on effort, I have lost because of this underlying nastiness.”

A councillor since 2004, Mrs Aldred said online abuse has become a problem over the past few years and was particularly bad during the election period.

“This is the first campaign where it’s been this bad. You always get sniping, but never this bad,” she said.

Despite the election now being over and Mrs Aldred losing her seat, she said the abuse continues.

She said: “Now the election is over with they should let it go, but the abuse is every day. It’s horrendous.”

Mrs Aldred decided to speak out about her experiences to make people aware of the problem, while also thanking those who supported her over the years.

She believes election candidates in other areas of the borough faced similar abuse.

She said: “People need to know these things are going on behind the scenes. To me, it’s not been a fair fight. I feel like they have been plotting behind my back.

“It’s not just happened to me, but it is still happening to me.”

Last month Astley and Mosley Common councillor Paula Wakefield raised a motion in the council chamber condemning cyber abuse against women, which was carried unanimously.

She detailed some of the terrifying threats she had seen on social media aimed at women in the public eye.

And earlier this year Leigh MP Jo Platt condemned an internet troll who sent an abusive message to Wigan Council’s chief executive Donna Hall.

She raised the issue with then Home Secretary Amber Rudd during a topical questions session in the House of Commons.