Emily’s experience of online disability hate crime

Emily Davison

Emily — also known as blogger Fashioneyesta — told us about her experience of online hate crime.

Even though I knew these comments were coming from people hiding behind their keyboards it still filled me with a sense of fear.

Being a blogger, YouTuber and social media influencer you have to get used to the fact that not everyone is going to like you. 

Receiving criticism comes with the territory. But how do you deal with comments that aren’t so much critical but more hateful?

I have a congenial condition known as Septo Optic Dysplasia. This condition impacts my sight and endocrine system. It means I am severely sight-impaired and work with a guide dog. It's a very demanding, chronic illness.

I use my blog to talk about disability positivity as well as fashion and beauty. I received so many comments from people telling me in an incredulous voice that I didn’t ‘look blind’. I made a space where I could dispel the myth that sight loss predetermines how you will look and the things you can do. That space was my blog and YouTube channel, Fashioneyesta.

Mental health and social media

It seems that not everyone on YouTube agrees with my ethos. I’ve had a mixed bag of hateful comments. People have told me to drink bleach to cure my disability.

While others have outright accused me of faking my sight loss based on how I look and act.

Someone even went as far as making a video of me which accused me of lying about my disability.

Emily Davison holding her phone in her bedroom

When I first started getting these comments, my mental health plummeted to a new low. Anxiety wormed its way into my life and I found myself becoming apprehensive to make content. I allowed other people’s words stop me from doing what I loved.

Even though I knew these comments were from people hiding behind their keyboards, it still filled me with a sense of fear. The idea that being online could mean receiving more hateful comments, played havoc with my mental health. While I had hundreds of positive, kind and sensitive comments from my audience, my mind would always settle back on the negative ones.

Is disability hate crime like other hate crimes?

People need to understand that disability hate crime is as bad as any other form of hate crime and prejudice. Disability isn’t often talked about in social media guidelines and often comes as an afterthought. Social media companies need to start recognising disability hate crime and ableism.

How we should tackle disability hate crime on social media

When reporting comments on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube there needs to be specific options to report different kinds of hate crime, disability included. The police recognise the different kinds of hate crime - the same thing should apply to social media.

The truth is, the internet and specifically social media are instrumental to the disability community and the way we live our lives. We use it to get advice and stay social when our disabilities make it difficult to get out and about. We should all have the freedom to use social media and not have to face hate crime. But if we do face it, there needs to be a clear reporting system implemented by social media platforms to deal with it.

Lack of prosecution

Our latest research has found more than 5,000 disability hate crimes were reported to police in 2018/19 yet few cases result in prosecution.

Find out more about our latest research