Dame Pamela calls out social-media trolls
Bermuda’s first woman premier asked social-media users yesterday to be responsible online after a false claim that she should have been in self-quarantine as part of the battle against the coronavirus.
Dame Pamela Gordon-Banks said she feared for the welfare of vulnerable people who became the victims of online taunts or accusations.
She said: “We have a huge amount of mental illness, we have people who cannot stand up for themselves and we have bullies out there who, under the cover of social media — sometimes they make themselves known and sometimes they’re anonymous, more times than not they’re anonymous — and they can destroy people’s lives.”
Dame Pamela added: “They’re willing to expose people fraudulently and incorrectly but they’re not prepared to stand up and be counted.”
The former United Bermuda Party premier was speaking after she became aware of a voice note that claimed she was out in public when she was “supposed to be in quarantine and she knows that”.
Listeners were advised to “avoid” her.
An Instagram post, which appeared to have been deleted yesterday, included a photograph of Dame Pamela and said she “may or may not be infected with the Covid-19 virus and is supposed to be self-quarantined”.
Dame Pamela told The Royal Gazette yesterday that she returned to Bermuda from Britain on March 13, four days before the Government’s mandatory self-quarantine for travellers started.
She explained that although she went into a shop on March 17 with her nose and mouth covered and advised staff that she had recently been away, it was purely precautionary.
She added she had acted in light of the social distancing measures already publicised in Britain.
Dame Pamela, who was not ill before or after she travelled, said: “I was not required to be under quarantine.”
She added: “I want to be able to reach out to all of the people who have been hurt by social media, who have had mean-spirited things said about them, which are not true.
“And if they want to do something, we can collectively get the pressure on the Government to do something about this before we end up finding that somebody who was pressured through social media ends up killing themselves, hurting themselves because of some untruth that they don’t have the strength and the power to be able to fix.
“That’s the thing that we should be doing as a community, looking to help the most vulnerable.”
Dame Pamela said that she was heartened by people who contacted her to show support but that inaccurate social media posts were dangerous.
She added: “There’s got to be some discretion to this social media and I believe that ... if it’s not legislated, at the very least there should be some parameters set for people so that they will know when they have crossed the line.
“That way, it protects the very vulnerable in this society.
“I have a full life, I’m very busy, I’m doing a lot of constructive things and I don’t participate in social media because I do find that it is very divisive, that it can be very debilitating and I want to be positive.”
Dame Pamela told the public: “If you want to do social media, don’t do it at somebody’s expense, do something that’s going to be worthy.”
She added: “It’s the people who themselves feel unworthy, who are irresponsible, who have nothing special in their lives to make them feel valuable and valued in this community that are the same people who will try to trash and try to hurt other people because it’s that smallness that makes them feel big.”
She said Bermuda could set an example for the rest of the world.
Dame Pamela added: “We’re this small microcosm, and instead of us being a poisonous cauldron where we’re stirring around all the negative, we could probably turn ourselves into a force for good.”
She suggested that community service orders could be imposed on people for malicious use of social media “so that they can see what it feels like to help people rather than hurt people”.
Commissioner of Police Stephen Corbishley said: “Social media is a powerful tool to share information that’s important and currently, at this stage, we all need to be doing the same thing.
“But wrongly used, particularly when opinions are based on innuendo or rumour, it can lead to the perception of something that, in fact, is not reality.”
Mr Corbishley said people should “consider each others’ feelings” when posting online or in message apps.
He said: “While the situation that Dame Pamela faced is regrettable, it’s an opportunity for us to reflect on an incident and actually see how we can do things differently.”
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