Trolls force 'online councillor of the year' to go offline.
Byline: Mike Blackburn Stockton Chief Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
A STOCKTON councillor who has won awards for his social media presence has gone to the police after being hounded by cyber bullying and trolling.
After a spate of "vile personal attacks" Ingleby Barwick councillor David Harrington has suspended online ward surgeries and his Twitter account is no longer public.
He told The Gazette the situation came to a head last Friday when he received five or six trolling comments on his Twitter page.
"The only way I can describe them is absolutely vile personal attacks towards not just one but a number of employees of Stockton Council," he said.
"This forced my hand - I will not put up with any kind of bullying or abuse online. I'm not turning my back on this.
"I have now had a conversation with Cleveland Police about it."
Cllr Harrington, leader of the Ingleby Barwick Independent Society (IBIS), said over the last few months there had also been "a number of nasty comments made about myself ".
"I was also copied into tweets where the person was making totally unfounded allegations about Stockton Council and Cleveland Police," he added. "These people sit behind keyboards and believe they can slander whoever they want because they are anonymous."
In 2013, Cllr Harrington was awarded the title of Online Councillor of the Year at the Local Government Information Unit and CCLA Achievement Awards.
With more than 2,600 Twitter followers he has been prolific with his tweets about life and politics and also has accounts on Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Until the trolling abuse he also offered Skype surgeries for people who find it difficult to get to ward surgeries.
He and his fellow IBIS councillors are also refusing to discuss planning issues due to "bullying behaviour" from residents.
"We have had a number of issues where somebody has a different view from their next door neighbour on issues of planning," said Cllr Harrington. "It would be a sad world if we all had the same views."
He added: "As councillors we want to make ourselves open and accountable to residents. "We will continue to speak to residents over the phone, by email or at our surgeries - but not about planning issues."
Cleveland Police has been contacted for comment.
| Councillor David Harrington when he was |presented with a national award for his use of new technology when dealing with residents in 2013. He won the Online Councillor of the Year Award at the Local Government Information Unit and CCLA Achievement Awards held in London