Sadly, the the online abuse that Love Island contestants receive has been well reported, but what people may not realise is that whilst the contestants are on the show, they're not the ones seeing the abuse. It's their families and friends who have to deal with it as they monitor their accounts from back home.
Priya Gopaldas and Kaz Kamwi, both from series 7, spoke to reporter Marianna Spring for an episode of BBC Panorama titled "Online Abuse: Why Do You Have Me", which investigates the rise of online abuse against women. Throughout the 30-minute episode, Spring not only opens up about the abuse she receives as BBC's first specialist disinformation and social media reporter, but she also speaks to other prominent women who have received online abuse, and talks with experts about why the police, the government, and social media companies aren't doing more to stop it.
Both Gopaldas and Kamwi spoke about the vicious sexist and racist abuse their social media accounts received whilst on the show, and how that affected their families. "I think it was hard just because obviously [Kaz's] Instagram was on my phone, so I think I saw a lot more than people realise that I did," Kaz's sister Banji Kamwi explained. "And I didn't want to go downstairs to my mum and be like oh here's another one, here's another one . . . I kind of just had to be like block and delete, block and delete. So I just think it was a lot to handle."
"I am a dark-skinned Black women, like that's the first thing that you can see, and I think to be attacked on that it's so hurtful and so harmful, and the fact that my family was exposed to that, it breaks my heart," Kaz added.
Priya's friends monitored her account and had a similar experience. "I actually think it was more difficult for them seeing all of the trolling than it was for me because I expected it and I don't think they were fully prepared for it," Priya explained. "Even though I'd informed them that there was going to be this sort of this behaviour, I think they felt quite defensive, they wanted to, you know, send messages back."
As part of her investigation, Spring also spoke to a representative from Demos, a cross-party think tank here in the UK, that analysed over 94,000 posts and comments about contestants on both Love Island and Marriage at First Sight. Researchers found women contestants received more abusive messages than the men and in both cases the abuse was focused on their gender. Women were attacked for being manipulative, sneaky, sexual, evil, or stupid, whereas men was men being attacked for appearing not be masculine enough or being weak. Another theme of the abuse? Women of colour receiving more pernicious attacks based on their race.
As anyone who has received online abuse, you won't be surprised to learn that the episode found that no one is really doing enough to stop it, be it the police, the governments, or the social media platforms themselves. In terms of Love Island specifically, there have been calls for ITV to do more to protect the women contestants of colour on the show, something that has not happened in the past but perhaps might if contestants like Priya and Kaz continue to open up about their experiences on the show.