Zoom star Jackie Weaver is calling for an end to the combative, ‘grow a pair’ culture in local democracy, ahead of a debate on etiquette in online meetings.

Jackie shot to fame with her calm handling of a meeting of Handforth Parish Council, in which she was accused of having ‘no authority’ and sworn at.

Speaking ahead of a discussion on behaviour in digital democracy, hosted by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, Jackie said: “We need to reassure anyone wanting to enter the field of local politics that at a very minimum they will be protected from abuse within their own councils.

“Having watched ‘that video’ featuring me, I am sure we can all agree that courtesy and consideration for others is not only desirable but essential if we want to encourage a wider participation in local democracy.

“I would like to be able to extend that to the whole arena of public life but as a very minimum we should all be able to sign up to this. It is simply not enough to say that you need to ‘grow a pair’ and that this is part of the rough and tumble of politics.

“The danger is that people who favour kind, inclusive and less adversarial ways of making their points will go elsewhere.”

John Higgins CBE, President of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT said: “Tech has given more people than ever before the chance to take part in the democratic process - a great example of IT being good for society. But that access has also exposed some disrespectful behaviour that would otherwise have been hidden.

“There is now a big opportunity now to establish professional, respectful, and universal expectations of behaviour so that digital democracy can come of age and reach its potential.”

As the professional body for the IT industry BCS has also supported Jackie’s call for online council meetings to have permanent validity in law, to increase and diversity participation.

Jackie is part of a panel discussing a roadmap for responsible tech at BCS’ annual Insights conference on 24 June. Other speakers at the event are internet legend Vint Cerf, eminent computer scientist Dame Wendy Hall, environmentally-focused tech generalist Chris Adams and president of ITRenew, Ali Fenn.

Topics include tech and the climate emergency, professionalism in the IT industry, education and digital divide.