A group of artists are fighting online prejudice against the LGBT community by producing work inspired by troll tweets.
“It’s a thing that causes pain to a lot of people,” says artist Ricardo Bessa. “I’ve felt it, I know friends who’ve felt it.”
He is one of six artists who have been taking part in Smirnoff’s #chooselove project. In the build-up to Pride celebrations in London, they’ve been using the messages on social media as starting point for their illustrations.
One of Bessa’s pieces is a composition of gay couples kissing. It is a response to a Twitter user’s comments about the gay coming-of-age movie Moonlight, which said: “Of course the ‘best kiss’ @MTVAwards was given to two men, excuse me now while I puke.”
Bessa says: “The internet is pretty unfiltered now, which for the most part is good. It’s up to the social media companies to try and protect their users from this kind of harassment… because that’s what it is, harassment.”
Becca Human’s work is a response to a tweet that said “Don’t be gay and gross on social media”.
“If someone is telling you not to be yourself online – the most radical and powerful thing you can do is to be yourself online,” she says.
A report by charity Galop found one in three members of the LGBT community (31%) have experienced online abuse targeting their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Social media psychologist Dr Arthur Cassidy says trolls seek out anyone who might seem vulnerable.
“The motivation and personality of trolls is to target people that have been marginalised, disenfranchised, simply because of this dis-inhibition effect, which means ‘I can literally do things online so long as I’m anonymous’.”
Writing for The Guardian, Phil Adlem, a policeman who proposed to his boyfriend during last year’s Pride parade in London, recently said that seeing some of the hate-filled comments that followed “completely floored him”.
Rebecca Stinson, head of trans inclusion at Stonewall, is all too familiar with how that can feel.
“People still don’t understand that this is real life and at the end of that account Phil was sat there being able to see the responses.”
As a public LGBT campaigner, abuse is something she has, unfortunately, come to accept.
“You find that trolls delete it pretty quickly after they’ve sent it because they don’t like it being traced back to them.
“It is dangerous to a person’s well-being when you put yourself out there, but it’s also important that we have visible role models.”