Riley libel trial: did she really abuse and harass a girl with mental illness?

Last time I discussed the trial, I promised to explain some of my reasons for believing that Rachel Riley had abused and harassed a teenager with mental ill-health.

Riley has denied any such behaviour, and one of the criticisms of my article is that I didn’t mention this (despite the fact that she had already broadcast it to far more people than I could reach, via her Twitter feed alone, and never mind her TV and other appearances before my article).

In fact, my Serial abuser article refers to her Twitter threads in which she did deny her behaviour (and attacked the girl and her father), so it was possible for readers to see what she had said if they wanted. And an update in November 2019 made it clear that Riley disputed some of the opinions in the piece and was suing me for libel over them.

So, what’s she complaining about?

The origin of the dialogue between Riley and the girl was a tweet she published on December 14, 2018. Here it is:

She was supporting a tweet by David Collier suggesting anti-Semitism by Owen Jones in an extremely suspicious way.

Lord Sugar had said he would leave the UK if Jeremy Corbyn was elected prime minister – but had not mentioned his own Jewish ethnicity as a reason. He said he feared for the future of his grandchildren and their children but provided an economic argument – that a Corbyn government would be “like watching the mother-in-law drive the family Ferrari off a cliff”.

After Jones tweeted “Celebrate good times, come on!” Mr Collier was the first person to mention Lord Sugar’s Jewish ethnicity. Riley expanded on it, as you can see from the tweet.

The girl – Rosie – spoke up. She tweeted that she was disappointed with Riley for supporting and promoting a false impression of Jeremy Corbyn, who she contended was not an anti-Semite but a pacifist who had won peace prizes (which is true).

Riley did not initially respond, but her supporters and Twitter followers did, subjecting Rosie to a considerable amount of vitriolic abuse. Rosie then complained:

She then tweeted that she wished to leave the discussion behind her, saying she had  “muted antisemitism and likewise from Twitter so I can stop being trolled”.

Sadly, more abuse followed, suggesting that whatever Rosie had done to get away had been unsuccessful, leading to a point where one of her abusers demanded that Rosie should apologise to Riley. Her response:

It was at this point that Riley decided to engage Rosie in discussion – the point at which Rosie was trying to get away. Why then?

There were possible good reasons for contact. Riley could have apologised for making a false accusation against Mr Corbyn. She could have explained her reasons for making that accusation. Or she could have made a statement disapproving of the abuse Rosie had received from her followers.

She did not have to do this in public. She could have honoured Rosie’s request not to perpetuate the abuse – which, by now, had developed into harassment by those of Riley’s followers who had refused to leave her alone, by contacting her via Direct Message.

In court, Riley’s counsel suggested that this would not have been possible because a Twitter users have to be following each other in order to send DMs. This is not true.

But Riley did not do any of these things. Instead, she send a seven-tweet thread to Rosie via public Twitter, ensuring that all of her followers, including the abusers were able to read what she had to say. The tweets could have been sent all at once but were instead “dripped” to Rosie at one, two or three-minute intervals which – to a person with anxiety issues, may be considered to be harassment by itself.

Here’s her first tweet:

You can see she chose to put Rosie down with the patronising “I’m sure you mean well,” at the start. Rosie herself was to comment on this later.

Then she commented on abuse – not by apologising for it or saying Rosie should not have suffered it. It’s “horrible for anyone to receive”, she said, which may be interpreted as a refusal to acknowledge that her followers had abused anybody at all.

It’s an astonishing comment – not least because the very next sentence is an act of abuse: “But what possible motive could I have for wanting to smear with lies about AS?” This is gaslighting.

I know what you may be thinking: she was responding to Rosie’s claim that she was smearing Mr Corbyn by suggesting that he and/or the Labour Party’s policies under his leadership, were anti-Semitic.

This is disproved by the tweet immediately following, in which Riley stated: “Plenty of Labour member are up in arms with what’s going on within their party, is it all a smear?”

So Riley was trying to pretend that she had not said Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour policies were anti-Semitic, but that there was a large amount of anti-Semitism in the Labour party. This was not what she had stated, as you can see by checking upwards.

Going back to her first tweet, Riley then employed a well-known dogpiling tactic known as “tagging-in” – including other Twitter users in her thread so they would read it – people familiar with the issue under debate, who may then read what Riley had said, draw the wrong conclusion about what was going on, and act against Rosie themselves (or encourage their own followers to do so).

You see how dogpiling works? This tactic puts distance between the person causing the dogpile and those carrying it out as there is no direct call to action. But all the elements required for that action to take place are there.

Note also that both the people tagged into that first tweet are described as being involved with mental health – a further put-down of Rosie, who was not only a sufferer of mental illness but a campaigner for better mental health care for teenagers.

And all that is just in Riley’s first tweet! Around 50 more were to follow.

I’ll skim over much of the rest of the first thread, because Riley mostly discussed herself and her own education in anti-Semitism.

But at the end, she states:

“You can have a @UKLabour party who fight for people AND don’t promote or ignore antisemitism. But you’ll have to fight for it now.” More gaslighting.

And then:

Guilt by association – with imaginary people. Riley tweeted “I imagine” Rosie had received praise, but “not” from “the type of people I’d be wanting praise from”. How would she know – was it because she had just invented these people?

And how was Rosie “echoing popular opinion” when the mass media had whipped public feeling against Corbyn?

The offer to answer any questions is yet more gaslighting, of course – Riley was putting herself forward as the expert, suggesting that Rose knew nothing.

Finally – and this is damning: “and I’m far from ashamed”. That’s a direct reference back to Rosie’s claim that Riley should feel ashamed because she had been “subjected to horrible abuse for standing up against some of the awful media you have been sharing”.

Riley was saying she was not ashamed of causing this abuse, which could be interpreted as a call for her followers (and anybody else who had become involved as a result of reading this thread) to inflict more on this vulnerable girl.

That’s a lot of abuse, a hint of harassment, and some apparent encouragement of dogpiling – all in a single thread.

Worse was to follow.

I still have to finish paying for my legal representation at the trial. If you are as horrified by the above information as I was when I read it in early January 2019, please support my CrowdJustice fund in one or more of the following ways:

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I’ll continue this with more of my evidence to the trial later.

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