FOR a large number of the population the phrase “online trolling” will have little significance. But, for a smaller number, it is something that badly affects their lives.

Now, TV personality Katie Price is calling on MPs to make online abuse a specific offence. She knows exactly what she is talking about: her son Harvey has been a constant target for some of social media’s most virulent attacks.

The 15-year-old is blind, autistic and has a range of health problems but this apparently makes him an ideal target for the sick individuals who constantly mock him online.

Katie, giving evidence to the Commons’ petitions committee, explained how trolls hurl racist abuse at her son and even create cruel videos of him. She insisted that the law has failed to keep up with the changing use of technology and that a line needed to be drawn between “banter” and abuse which should involve a criminal offence.

She related how police were unable to take upsetting online incidents further than a caution because there was no charge in place that applied.

Now, like most journalists, I’m a big fan of free speech. Plainly, not everyone agrees with everyone else’s views and I’ve always believed that people are entitled to express their own opinion.

However... there are acceptable and unacceptable ways of doing this. And hurling abuse, humiliation and even death threats are a million miles away from acceptable free speech.

Unfortunately, on the surface, it is very easy for these keyboard warriors to wage their own private wars against individuals from the comfort of anonymity. It’s quite a different matter to have the guts to say something to someone’s face, or use your own name online so that the public at large know who they are and exactly how they think.

In the past 12 months, I’ve suffered more abuse online just writing this regular page of views than I’ve ever had. This is not just about differing opinions. This is about people venting their frustrations, their prejudices and their anger at another individual in the nastiest way.

I’m an adult and capable of dealing with most of this but to think that a youngster with disabilities or any other vulnerable person should be targeted in this way makes me feel ill.

Bring on a change in the law – it’s overdue and, sadly, society today needs this kind of regulation.