Terror attack victims and NHS staff warned over social media trolls

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NHS England is to issue guidance to staff and terror attack victims to warn them about the risk of social media trolls, but also telling them to be wary of journalists.

The organisation has created a new guide to social media, which warns that trolls may target victims, as was seen in the aftermath of the Manchester and London terror attacks.

The guide also issues pros and cons about dealing with the media and tells NHS staff not to respond to journalist tweets asking for interviews or information following an attack.

It tells victims of terror attacks that positive media coverage can help with any appeals they have, such as searching for loved ones, and can enable them to pay tribute to those who have been killed.

The guide also lists reasons not to speak to the media, including "saying more than you intend when you are vulnerable, upset or angry", putting friends and family in the spotlight when they might not want it, and losing privacy that can "last a long time".

It also says "journalists' questions can seem very intrusive, and sometimes blunt".

The guide tells NHS staff that social media can be a good thing when there is a terrorist attack but that statements can "turn into an unwanted media story about you, your colleagues and your patients".

It adds: "Social media is always monitored by journalists who are looking for a story and you may find yourself in the wrong place at a journalist's right time."

It reminds staff to maintain patient confidentiality and not to reveal identities in photos, and to not reveal things such as the names of hospitals where victims have been taken unless this is already in the public domain.

Staff are also told not to respond to journalists on Twitter, saying: "Don't respond to journalists' tweets - they are seductive!"

The advice for younger people says that "journalists who monitor social media can follow up your posts and though that may sound attractive, it can also put your life into wider arenas which intrudes into your personal life or your family or your friends.

Mourners in Manchester after the Arena attack
Positive media coverage can help (PA)

"You can also attract trolls; people who draw the most negative conclusions they can, or question your motives. This is incredibly hurtful - which is what the sender intends - and it will upset you, or make you angry and that's never the best time to think about what you tell."

While the "advantages of social media outweigh the disadvantages", the guide advises that after an upsetting event, people should "try to stay off social media in case you say more than you intend because of what you experienced".

It adds: "Messaging your story can keep you in the trauma; retelling your story can also bring back bad memories and you can even relive the trauma."

People are told not to respond to trolls. The guide says: "If you get abusive messages, don't respond or reply but don't ignore them - delete them and do what you can to block the sender from your feed. Consider reporting hateful and abusive messages to the police and service providers."