Jeremy Vine attacks social media firms after jailing of stalker | Jeremy Vine

Jeremy Vine has criticised social media companies for failing to take action against online hate in the wake of the jailing of stalker Alex Belfield.

Companies such as YouTube and Twitter had no moral values, said the BBC Radio 2 and Channel 5 broadcaster.

Belfield, a former BBC Radio Leeds presenter, was on Friday jailed for five years and 26 weeks after being found guilty by a jury of stalking broadcasters including Vine, subjecting his victims to “an avalanche of hate”.

The judge, Mr Justice Saini, said Belfield’s actions were not traditional stalking but “were just as effective a way of intimidating victims and in many ways much harder to deal with”.

He referred to witnesses who said Belfield had “weaponised the internet” describing that as “a wholly apt description of your conduct”.

Vine described Belfield as “the Jimmy Savile of trolling” and said watching Belfield’s YouTube videos was “like swimming in sewage”.

He told a court: “I was brought so low. I just thought: ‘There’s no point broadcasting if the effect is that I’ve got this.’”

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Vine was critical of social media platforms including YouTube and Twitter.

“We had to get lawyers to get his shit taken down, and even then it’s hard,” Vine said.

“The companies just say no. They don’t have any moral values.”

Vine said it was a “scandal” that Belfield could report his own case on YouTube and said the law was still catching up with new technology.

Alex Belfield.
Alex Belfield. Photograph: Jacob King/PA

Belfield had 360,000 followers on his YouTube Voice of Reason channel and 43,000 on Twitter. The judge said Belfield directed his attacks via social media “in highly negative and often abusive terms”.

His aim was, in his own words, to “haunt” his victims, and he deployed his “army of followers” to pile on with abusive messages to those targeted, said Saini.

“Online stalkers like you have an ability to recruit an army of followers whose conduct massively expands the effect of your stalking,” he said.

“You made communications which had serious impacts on the private lives of the complainants, with distressing effects on their mental and physical health.

“You are entitled to hold and express views but you are not entitled to destroy the personal lives of your victims through online harassment.”

Belfield was found guilty in August of stalking Vine and three others after a five-week trial at Nottingham crown court.

Last Saturday Belfield – by then a convicted stalker – performed alongside Katie Hopkins at the Joe Longthorne theatre in Blackpool. The show was called Two Gobshites Live.

“Alex & Katie is the perfect night out if you want to laugh at the insanity of our lefty world,” the blurb went.

“They’re not PC but totally LOL.

”Watch them mercilessly ridicule everyone from politicians to celebrities in this EXCLUSIVE two-hour seaside special.”

Belfield was also found guilty of stalking the BBC Radio Northampton presenter Bernie Keith who was left feeling suicidal by a “tsunami of hate”, the court heard. His other victims were the theatre blogger Philip Dehany and the videographer Ben Hewis.

Vine told the Sunday Times that stalking was common for broadcasters. “Of my three best female friends at the BBC, all of them have had stalkers. I think stalking is the industrial disease of broadcasting.”

YouTube said it suspended monetisation on Belfield’s channel – as in it is not allowed to carry advertising – in February. That was for violating its harassment policy.

A spokesperson said: “Monetisation on the Voice of Reason channel remains suspended for violating our Creator Responsibility policy. If we see that a creator’s off-platform behaviour harms our users, community, employees or ecosystem, we take action to protect the community.”

A spokesperson for Twitter said they had no comment.

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