Note: Some of the content of the following story may cause distress for some readers.
British singer Lily Allen is taking a break from Twitter after becoming subjected to foul abuse, culminating in pointed questions about her stillborn son and her PTSD.
Political debate turned nasty when a poll Allen was running was hijacked by "trolls", and users began focusing on her personal life.
Allen was asking her followers whether they feel more marginalised by pensioners or Muslims, part of an attempt to show her support for immigrants in the UK. She's long been interested in politics and has recently focused on refugees, migrants and Brexit.
The poll appears to have been shared widely in international alt-right circles, with numerous users tweeting at her from profiles featuring 'Pepe the Frog' avatars. Pepe the Frog is an internet meme that has become associated with white supremacist and alt-right groups.
"Ugh, the frogs are out. In force," she tweeted.
She later deleted the poll, saying: "It got hijacked by alt-right trolls and eggs, just like Brexit and Trump."
The trolls abandoned the political side of the debate, instead harassing the singer over the death of her baby in 2010.
Allen has previously spoken about the stillbirth, which occurred six months into her pregnancy. She told the BBC's Desert Island Discs in 2014 she finds it "quite difficult to talk about", and said "it was the most unfortunate thing that can ever happen to a person" on The Jonathan Ross Show in 2014.
One Twitter user, a self-described "proud conservative" who supports the "First and Second Amendment" (freedom of speech and the right to bear arms) tweeted asking, "how did you get PTSD?"
Allen responded with a description of giving birth to her stillborn son.
"When I lay in a hospital bed with my deceased son stuck between my legs halfway out of my body for 10 hours", she tweeted.
The user replied: "not to be a dick, but I highly doubt it was 10 hours".
Others blamed Allen for the stillbirth. One said Allen "miscarried" because she'd "pumped [her] body full of drugs."
Allen responded to that tweet, saying "I didn't miscarry. I went into early labour and by [sic] son died from his chord wrapped around his neck."
Shortly afterward, someone called Dennis said they were looking after Allen's twitter for a while and would be tweeting only gifs, and going on a "hate blocking spree".
The user who initiated the exchange and questioned the length of time Allen was in labour then engaged in a series of tweets saying they "shouldn't be attacked", before eventually issuing a half-hearted apology.
"I'm sorry for saying something about your child and it must've been hard for you," they tweeted.
How to deal with internet harassment
If you become the victim of harassment online, Netsafe recommends taking screenshots of the content. The company provides a free service to help people with online bullying, harassment and abuse. If you become subject to internet harassment, you can contact them here.
Stillbirth in New Zealand
In New Zealand, about one in every 200 pregnancies ends in stillbirth. A stillbirth is any pregnancy in which the baby dies after the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The Ministry of Health says feelings of guilt and grief are common after miscarriage and stillbirth, and they can take a long time to recover from.
It recommends these organisations to help support mothers and their partners after the death of a baby:
- Sands New Zealand - a network of parent-run groups supporting whanau who have experienced the death of a baby
- Miscarriage Support - offers empathy, emotional and psychological peer support and information for all women who have experienced the loss of their babies, but particularly by miscarriage
- Skylight - bereavement support.