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Rachel Riley on trolling, upskirting and preventing unsolicited sexual content

Rachel Riley (Ian West/PA)
Rachel Riley (Ian West/PA)

Rachel Riley has said unsolicited sexual content being sent to people online should be treated the same as if it had happened in the street.

The 36-year-old Countdown star revealed that when the Centre for Countering Digital Hate went through her Instagram direct messages, as she does not look at them, the charity found a stream of inappropriate sexual videos, including 30 sent by one man.

Speaking on the Dirty Mother Pukka podcast, Riley questioned why social media giants do not use advanced photo detection technology to detect unsolicited sexual images.

She said: “They gave me the details of some of the things he was saying.

“It’s not that I’m upset that I’ve got it, it’s thinking that my friends, teenage girls, are on this platform. Especially DMs (direct messages) because no one else can see it.

“I’ve had a lot of trolling on Twitter from activism stuff, antisemitism stuff. The thing about being trolled is that you’re the only one that really sees all of it, and no one can understand what it’s like to have that level of trolling and that many people saying things or sending you things, it’s very lonely.

“To think there are teenage girls at one of the most vulnerable times in your life, we know teenage girls are really susceptible to external opinions and pressures.”

The mathematician and TV presenter questioned why social media platforms do not employ technology which can describe an image for visually impaired people to prevent users from receiving unwanted sexual content from people they do not follow.

She added: “Cyber flashing is literally just being made a crime.

“There’s no reason why doing something online shouldn’t be treated in exactly the same way as if you did it in the street.”

Riley also recalled a time she was upskirted – when someone takes a picture under another person’s clothing without their permission – at a friend’s house party while playing table tennis with her professional dancer husband Pasha Kovalev.

GQ Men of the Year Awards 2016 – London
Rachel Riley and Pasha Kovalev (Ian West/PA)

She said she was “too polite” to call out the inappropriate behaviour as she was unable to “digest” or think about it at the time.

However, she feels that if someone tried to do it to her again she should break their phone, and if they had an issue with that she would take the incident to police so it could be dealt with in public.

The presenter also spoke about the online trolling she has experienced, revealing that after speaking publicly on a podcast about it she faced a stream of abuse during her birthday week which left her in tears.

She said: “Early doors, I had no idea how to deal with it. I took everyone at face value and tried to use education and be reasonable and explain and engage.

“At one stage I spoke publicly on a podcast, and it was like a tap had been turned on. Literally, it felt like someone’s pressed a button and sent them all in my direction all at once.”

The TV star admitted the trolling was “overwhelming” and led to one of the only times she has argued with Kovalev as he was frustrated to see the “horrible people” getting to her.

The full interview with Rachel Riley on the Dirty Mother Pukka podcast with Anna Whitehouse and Polly Hazlewood is available on the Global player.

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