A SCOTTISH Government minister has said he worries that young people will “think again” about expressing their sexuality as he reported an increase in LGBT+ abuse on social media.

We previously told how Kevin Stewart, the MSP for Aberdeen Central, spoke out about the “homophobic nonsense” sent to him via Twitter after he posted about the Grampian Pride celebrations over the weekend.

Speaking to The National, he explained this was part of a wider pattern of abuse sent to minority groups on social media over the past few months.

“Over the past number of months, I’ve probably reported about half a dozen tweets.

READ MORE: Subscribe from JUST £24 for ONE year of The National

“You always get the response back that it doesn’t break the rules and I got a fair amount of abuse after my tweet on Saturday”, he explained.

Why is this happening now?

Stewart explained he was unsure whether or not the rise in abuse was to do with Elon Musk’s takeover of the social media platform but did add that those sending abuse seem to feel “emboldened”.

He continued: “I think the fear that I have and that many others have is that the progress we have made on LGBT+ rights is going backwards because some of this abuse is going unchecked.

“There has been a rise in the number of accounts where folk remain hidden and are unwilling to say who they are on Twitter.

“Some of those people think they can say anything that they like and that’s not a good thing as far as I’m concerned.

“It’s not just about LGBT+ rights, the racist abuse Humza Yousaf has faced for example is quite unbelievable.”

On Twitter’s website, there is a page stating clearly that “you may not share abusive content, harass someone, or encourage other people to do so”.

However, in spite of reporting several tweets, Stewart says he is yet to be told of any of them being banned.

What effect does this have?

Although Stewart says he has a “pretty thick skin”, having been an MSP for more than a decade, he worries about the effect abuse could have on younger people.

“I’ve already said that as MSPs, as ministers, we get lots of comments – some of them not nice but some of them fair, it has to be said”, Stewart added.

“But what is not right is attacks on minority groups and while it doesn’t have a huge impact on me, it does make me angry.

READ MORE: YesCymru leader says Wales can pave the way for Scottish independence

“It is much easier now for younger people to express their sexuality. I never came out till I was 39 because of the years I grew up in.

“However, my fear is that young folk will begin to think again about telling people who they are and that is extremely concerning.”

What could be done?

Stewart believes that the guidance on what exactly constitutes abuse needs to be made clearer and that Twitter should stick to those rules.

He said: “I think there should be much more policing of the bot situation and that shouldn’t be allowed. Allowing anonymous accounts is not a good thing at all.

“How you get round that is quite difficult but the key thing in all of this is Twitter needs to put out guidance around about what it thinks is abusive or not and it needs to stick to that.

“I’m all for freedom of speech and for folk to say what they want. However, there is a line when that is abusive, hurtful and threatening.”