I've been on social media now for about 15 years. I first went on MySpace, then Facebook and joined Twitter when it was launched.
I use social media to raise awareness of autism and my campaigning work, which I have been doing since my diagnoses in 2001. About four years ago I started to get 'trolled' and stalked by a person who was not in this country, it was constant, day in day out. Then later the abuse came onto Twitter, in the form of trolling, abuse and hate speech.
The worst aspect for me is Twitter cloning and impersonation, for me it's like identity theft. When someone clones your profile and pretends to be you, there's nothing worse than this, but for me when I got this type of abuse, that I reported to Twitter, it took them several weeks to close down the imposters account.
The abuse got that bad that I had to involve the police, because I was being violated on Twitter. This is classed as a serious disability hate crime offence.
Social media sites such has Facebook and Google have verified and protected my accounts online, but sadly Twitter refuse to protect my safety online, after all they have a moral responsibility to protect their users. But this has not happened for me. Many of my supporters have tweeted Twitter, I've even had my MP, police, crime commissioner and even celebrities write to Twitter, asking them to verify my account, but Twitter come back to say that I don't meet the eligibility criteria, when the truth is that I am a high profile campaigner in the UK as well as an author. They still refuse to verify me, and what I really can't get my head around is that other campaigners like me, like Shy Keenan and Denise Fergus, who have received abuse online and have subsequently had their Twitter accounts verified and protected by Twitter.
Lots of people tell me, "well Kevin, if Twitter verify your account, you will still get cloned and impersonation, and abuse", well, yes this is very true, however if my account is verified then at least people will know who is the real 'Kevin Healey'.
The worst is when someone who can't speak up for themselves, like Katie Price's son, who has also been impersonated on Twitter. The trolls have sent out some of the most horrendous tweets and imposters aimed towards him and the fact that he has autism.
Over the last two years I've been interviewed twice by Sky News, the Mail, Independent, BBC and ITV, about my abuse online. Just a few months ago I quit Twitter for a month, because the abuse started again, but I've come back on Twitter now.
My advice is to not feed the trolls, instead starve them of oxygen. It's like the scenario of a fire that needs oxygen to stay alight. Internet trolls are like this, as they need oxygen, but starve them and silence them.
Over 1700 people have signed my online petition asking twitter to verify my account, but sadly this still has not happened. I just want protection, nothing more, and nothing less. In a leaked memo a few months ago, the CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, said that they failed to protect users online and this would change. It slightly has, in the way that if you have a verified account you can filter out the abuse as well as filtering out imposters etc., but sadly I can't do this because I'm still unverified.
At least some good has come out of this. I made a documentary on cyberbullying, which was screened in Stoke on Trent and London, and if it saves ones person's life, at least I know that's I've done something right. Too many young people are taking their own lives through online cyberbullying, and what I really fear is for those whom are on the spectrum and start using social media for the first time, because if they are bullied, the consequences could be devastating.
Just over a year ago, I managed to get an EDM172 in parliament, were over 106 MPs agreed to this Early Day Motion. I've spoken in parliament, to the previous Crime Prevention minister for hate crime, about cyberbullying, and in June I will be speaking at the Autism Show on the subject cyberbullying in the 21st century.