Sali Hughes Trolling – The Other Side Omitted by BBC Documentary?

Sali Hughes has been given a platform by the BBC and Guardian to talk about trolling. It all seems very shocking with the vile abuse she talks of receiving online, however when you look beyond the surface there appears to be another side that wasn’t explored.

Some people are saying Sali Hughes shows a cognitive dissonance based on her previous actions, please read on to make up your own mind.

Many of Sali Hughes’s social media posts have been deleted but a small number appear to have been shared online, which while are impossible to verify they do seem to bring everything she’s claimed into question. Much of what Sali Said in the documentary some feel is emotive snippets without any detail to show the full picture and users of Tattle life feel they deliberately mislead.

Disclaimer: This article is published as a statement of opinion based on saved social media posts. An honest person could have formed the same opinion from the information. This article is published as it’s in the public interest following the broadcast of a documentary on the BBC involving a public figure.

Giles Coren Claims Sali Hughes Caused A Pile on His Wife Esther Walker

It seems Sali caused what she claims to have been on the receiving end of. A twitter mob descended on Esther Walker after Sali criticised her parenting when she considers comments on her own parenting off-limits:

Esther Walker is said to have made her twitter private for a while following the twitter mob.

Diane Abbott Joke

It’s alleged by several people that Sali Hughes responded to a very unpleasant tweet about Labour MP and the first black woman to serve in parliament. As Sali has deleted her tweets from back then we’re unable to verify her message but the first two tweets are verified and Sali as of 07/10/2020 has these two people among the 1,670 people she follows on Twitter.

I wouldn’t include this screenshot had not several people claimed it was true and Sali follows these two people. It’s impossible to verify it’s real now Sali has deleted her old tweets and shouldn’t be taken as gospel, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility as public figures behaved very differently on twitter 5 years ago.

Do Different Rules Apply To Otherpeople?

A promotional tweet by BBC Radio 4 quotes topics that Sali thinks go too far, but as shown above Esther Walker’s parenting was called into question by Sali so this seems at odds.

I totally get why someone wouldn’t want their marriage, sex life, parenting or friends spoken about. But when Sali Hughes has written about each of these (presumably for remuneration) it does seem hypocritical. She has written about her personal life in various places including on the now defunct and deleted The Pool. If a writer chooses to write about a topic isn’t it inevitable that people discuss it?

Above is just a few of the articles Sali Hughes wrote about her relationship on The Pool so it seems strange that Sali claims she doesn’t overshare and her relationship should be off limits. The Pool was an online magazine co-founded by Lauren Laverne, but after it was sold it went bankrupt owing many writers money.

Sali is also known for talking about a “maintenance shag” in another deleted article she wrote for The Pool, which is available to read on the web archives. Again seems strange she’s so outraged at people discussing topics that she’s chosen to write about.

Group Bullying Of Dawn O’Porter?

Back in 2009 twitter was a very small place and public figures posts were not held up to the same scrutiny they are in 2020 (as countless controversies over old tweets has shown). Sali appears to have been part of a group of people that “bashed” writer Dawn O’Porter. Sali’s tweets she contributed have been deleted, but some remain on other accounts and do give background for people to form an opinion on:

The replies do seem to indicate that Sali Hughes was part of a group that targetted Dawn and called her Prawn. The article about trolling that Dawn wrote many believe could be about this group of people on twitter:

Dawn’s husband Chris O’Dowd left a less than cryptic reply when someone said Sali Hughes was nice:

Sali Hughes Becomes The Guardian Beauty Columnist By Bullying?

Sali is alleged to have publically canvassed for the guardian beauty column job by using her twitter to say how awful she thought the current one was and several other media friends including Caitlin Moran joined in. The previous beauty columnist Lauren Luke was the target and she’s said to have been ill with anxiety and disappeared from her online platforms following this.

Sali claims people talking about her on tattle in a group is harassment, so could what she and other people with a large platform did on twitter be seen as worse?

Sali confirms this story with a more innocent angle in an interview:

Several posters on social media believe Sali trolled Lauren Luke:

Sali and her media industry friend’s tweets have since been deleted.

Deliberately Misconstruing A Figure Of Speech To Mislead?

A user on the so-called “dragging website” Tattle Life used the well-known and well-understood figure of speech that Sali would sell her own children

Sali has used this comment many times so state that a “troll” was literally suggesting she would sell her own children:

My child’s teacher read how I would sell my kids for money.

Trolls on ‘dragging sites’ can ruin lives. It’s time they answered for their actions
– Sali Hughes

Which seems strange because a tweet deleted by Sali, but saved by the old twitter workings where retweets weren’t embedded, shows her using the same figure of speech to joke about selling her own children:

Several users of tattle posted that saying Sali should not have taken photos at a friends funeral to share on her very public Instagram has been misconstrued into something else to suggest people were dragging grieving relatives, without giving the detail or context to the highly emotive claims.

Criminal Friends With Thinly Veiled Threats

After Sali’s first video about the “trolls” [on tattle life] in September 2019 her good friend India Knight posted online that her partner Eric Joyce asked about users addresses:

Eric Joyce was a former MP for Labour who was known for being arrested 5 times in his last 5 years. He was convicted of attacking two teenagers aged 14 and 15 in an unjustified and unprovoked assault.

It’s quite understandable members of the public were worried when a convicted criminal was asking Sali Hughes if she knew their addresses, Sali fanned the flames by replying “literally yes.”.

However, what wasn’t known at the time publically was that Eric Joyce was facing paedophilia charges. Joyce himself would have known, but it’s unclear if his partner India or her good friend Sali knew. He pleaded guilty in July 2020 of making an indecent photo of a child.

Stalking Accusations

Some members of the Tattle Life forum felt intimidated by Sali Hughes and her assistant as, amongst other things, they’re alleged to have found a photo of a person’s child on Facebook and ‘liked’ it. This is a member of the public who has expressed an opinion on the public figure Sali Hughes. It’s unclear how she found them, but Sali has her own forums and groups that most were a member of previously (as they were at one point fan) so people are concerned that private data may have been misused.

One claimed to have had a friend request from Sali Hughes after they liked a comment on her IGTV that questioned Charlotte Tilbury as previous employees claimed to be bullied.

Sali claims she knows the names jobs and locations of 30 people and apparently it was pretty easy:

Changing Views

Sali’s views on people that use their image to sell products appear to have done a U turn since she started accepting offers from brands to promote products.

Shocking Hypocrisy

Lot’s of Sali’s old tweets appear to show she was regularly up to bashing the looks of celebrities. Yes, Tattle Life does sometimes mention peoples looks, but this is a small percentage of the discussions had. Can Sali Really claim the moral high ground from these tweets she sent in her mid 30s?

This is only a very small section of the unpleasant tweets Sali Hughes used to send slagging off people in the public eye as they go on and on. They are saved as old retweets are not able to be deleted by the author, Sali has of course deleted all of these tweets on her account. To see these for yourself search “RT @salihughes:” since:2000-01-01 until:2010-12-30″.

Viewing old tweets does not validate that someone sent them as they could have manually typed RT @salihughes , but this is very unlikely. When you see many retweets of the same it is pretty conclusive.

Why Sali Hughes Has A Thread On Tattle

In the Sali Hughes threads on Tattle people comment on the content she puts online.

The users of tattle have put together a great explanation of why the Sali Hughes threads exist –

A TLDR; as Sali started to enter the influencer sphere and was paid to promote brands people felt her honesty USP was no longer valid. Especially as she was promoting products by using her own face without disclosing the cosmetic procedures like botox that she has had.

Some users on tattle had these interesting points after listening to the BBC Radio 4 documentary Me and my Trolls:

So, I discovered Sali through her ITB series on YouTube and decided to follow her on Instagram. It was refreshing to follow someone who seemed a little outside of the influencer bubble. Then I saw her Insta story about this new documentary about “dragging sites” and found my way over to here. Like so many others, I expected to see vitriol and hate, but have instead found predominantly constructive criticism and sociopolitical discussion. The fact that this woman is using her privilege, position and power to bully, gaslight and stifle debate is horrifying. Needless to say, if she hasn’t been talking about this site and calling wolf, I would never have known she was on here and I would never have seen screenshots of her ugly tweets (I’m not even on Twitter). What disturbs me aren’t people making flippant jokes about her husband being a nanny, it’s the words and accusations that she herself is posting. Seeing them in relation to the actual posts here, they are downright hyperbolic.

Although these sites are not without their issues, they are often the only safe place viewers and consumers have to discuss shady business practices. I actually found them for the first time when trying to ascertain whether an influencer was sponsored by a company…I’d made a purchase based on their recommendation and could not understand why the product was so bad. (Side note – this, Sali, is why it isn’t crazy for viewers to wonder about your relationship with brands; it’s not to defame you but to ask a genuine question in the context of a very dishonest industry. A simple clarification would suffice for readers here.)

What Sali is experiencing isn’t anything new. We have had these discussions since the dawning of celebrity culture, and such discussions escalated yesrs ago with the advent of reality TV: what happens to human beings when their lives and personalities are commodified? What does it do to their psychology given that such commodification opens their very lives up to scrutiny? How is their psychology affected when they receive outpourings of adoration in conjunction with criticism? Moreover, what are the implications for our political systems where representatives are also treated in the same vain?

I just read Sali’s Guardian article (I normally don’t read first hand as I’m just not interested enough), and saw that she said ‘I spent most of last year in depression’. I have sympathy for anyone dealing with mental health issues, and I know that many of us, me included, have dealt or still deal with a range of mental health issues.

Sali should definitely be in therapy (I say this as someone currently in therapy). It strikes me that a good therapist would be focussing on helping her deal with people making negative comments about her. I think that would include focussing on what makes her happy, which would not include monitoring or having other people monitor Tattle for her. It would also include considering Sali’s feelings about things that are out of her control, and working towards her defining her sense of self separately to other people’s opinions. It seems clear to me that one of the rational answers to this problem is not that Tattle, or any other site that hosts people’s negative opinions, needs to be shut down.

As we have said again and again, people who live some of their life in the public sphere, whether they intend to or not, need to either adapt to deal with criticism or retire into the private sphere. To make a comparison, it would seem ludicrous for Ellen DeGeneres to attempt to shut down any criticism of her online, and indeed this would be censorship that is not something that we recognise as consistent with a modern democracy.

I’ve never personally really felt as though reading and posting here causes me any moral quandary. I know who I am, and I am happy for this site to be part of that. I only ever write and ‘like’ things that I feel comfortable with, and any plea for me to consider that I am damaging others with what I write here doesn’t change my feelings about what I should or should not be doing on this website. Many people and circumstances can cause us pain in adult life, and it is difficult to learn that people don’t always do what we want them to and don’t always consider us or have us as a priority in their decision-making. This is something that as adults we must deal with and resolve for ourselves to achieve a sense of peace in our own circumstances, and it is often not easy.

This may seem callous, but it’s not my responsibility to protect Sali Hughes’s wellbeing. Likewise, I would not expect her to consider mine. She needs to look after herself; I need to look after myself, and we should both be able to express our opinions, unless they enter hate speech territory.

I also want to add that as women we are taught by society that we must care for others: our partners, children, family, friends and even others who we do not know well or have never met.

This burden is laid at our door and caring traits are prized in ‘good’ women in a way that is not true of the male experience.

I think that women internalise this with the effect that we feel ‘bad’ for ‘not being nice’ to other people, especially other women, even when we have no real obligation to ‘look after’ these people’s welfare.

I think that Sali looks at this site through this lens – that we have an obligation to ‘be nice’ to her – and that, likewise, past guilty commenters feel bad for ‘talking badly’ about Sali and ‘upsetting’ her [for the record, I do believe that Becky is real].

Part of empowering women so that we can live lives with equal chances is allowing us to have more control over those we choose to care for. This may involve not automatically being the allotted carer to an old parent, or not assuming the majority of household chores when both partners work the same hours; it might also involve not always being the go to parent for parental ‘admin’ or emotional support (Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s remark on her son’s school only calling her when they needed to consult a parent springs to mind).

Lastly, and most pertinently, this may involve not being responsible for all of the internet’s feelings, including those of people you don’t necessarily like or who have not been good for your own wellbeing.

Women are allowed to unshackle themselves from this obligation to care for and ‘be nice’ to everyone disproportionately, which may have no healthy boundaries, and can have the effect of depleting and exhausting us so that we have nothing left to give to the people in our own lives who are most important to us, as well as ourselves.

Attempting to guilt women into having feelings that they have ‘let people down’ by ever expressing negative or critical comments is policing our inner lives in a way that is not conducive to progress.

My feeling (and I’m repeating myself from earlier threads so apologies for being a broken record) is that if we were men talking about footballers in the same way, no one would give a shit. This is only an issue as it’s women discussing another woman negatively. Which is unsisterly and mean. Whereas slagging off Andy Carroll’s performance on Saturday is just dissecting the stuff you’re interested in.

Us ladies should know our place and that’s to buy all the products we’re told to, to look pretty and shut up if any of them don’t meet our expectations.

Insofar as I can recognise any of the examples she gives of ‘false allegations’ they seem to be, as always, a gross misrepresentation of what was said here – a tiny speck of substance taken out of context and exaggerated out of recognition.

For example, the allegation ‘…your marriage simply a means of acquiring a free nanny’. All there is here* is, first, a comment in December 2018 responding to SH’s Twitter criticism of an article by Esther Coren during which SH said ’I feel hugely sorry for these kids on the basis of what both parents have written about them’.

There were a number of comments here about that including:

‘This is yet another influencer cat fight made public ( of course ) by encouraging the sheep to take down the oppostion. SH will use her pool platform to further inflame and humble brag as always. In tyical smug SH style. EC has the bigger house, plus the better looking and far more successful husband. SH husband is a rather podgy nonentitiy, though a useful nanny I expect.’

The comment received one ‘like’ and no response from other posters.

Then in June 2019, SH retweeted a tweet by her husband which showed the cover of a cookery book alongside the cover of one of SH’s books, with the comment: ‘I’d love to know where the idea and design aesthetic for this kitchenalia book came from but can’t for the life of me work it out.’

There were a few posts here noting that the covers weren’t very alike and commenting ‘what a strange fight to pick’. The poster who had posted that comment above about EC having a more successful husband now commented:

‘The latest and very petty *kitchenali* insult from her unheard of comedy writer ( see unemployed ) spouse shows how low she can go.’

There was an immediate reply:

‘I do agree that the tweet was petty, but [name of SH’s husband] is hardly an unheard of comedy writer.’

The OP replied:

‘Hi, happy to be wrong. But honestly, I have never seen or read anything by [name] besides some work with [name] and the odd bits through Sali’s sources like the pool/ soho radio. I suppose I’m comparing him to tv comedians which isn’t the same. What is he famous for?’

To which the reply was:

‘He writes for [names] and does a fair amount of stuff with [name]. He’s definitely not a TV comedian, but he’s been around on the comedy scene for ages.’

To which the OP replied:

‘Ok. Thank you for replying. I’ve never heard of any of those people either. Anyway pleased the he isn’t just the free nanny I thought he was [blushing face]’

So, yes, one poster – one single person – once made a sort of jokey comment about her husband being a ‘free nanny‘ and one person ‘liked’ it. And then even the original poster retracted it!

How can that reasonably be considered a ‘false allegation’?

I’d also note that the two occasions the ‘nanny’ comment was made were in the context of SH being unkind about other people to a far greater audience on Twitter. The context for the first was her comments about Esther Coren; the second was SH retweeting her husband’s implied allegation that her cover design had been plagiarised by someone else.

Again insofar as I can recognise anything, it dates back well over a year, to before her IG video. As we say in the Wiki, although her video gave a grossly misleading account of the content here, since then we have been careful to avoid making any comments at all about her family.

I do not doubt that online trolling does great harm to its victims – and if that was her campaign I’d be backing it – but these threads [on tattle life] are not what she says they are.

I truly feel with her Level 11 drama over Tattle, which is basically people mocking her and her choices, her questionable #Ad declarations etc, she does a MASSIVE disservice to people suffering genuine horrific abuse.

Prime example, Diane Abbott, an elected public figure who has received death threats, rape threats, you name it – she has had it in bucketloads. Is Sali truly putting herself, someone who has made a living writing about her personal life (husband, family, kids, friends, sex life etc), in the same category as someone like Diane?

I’m disgusted that she chose to interview someone like Jess Philips rather than Diane Abbot because the latter has been subjected to the vilest abuse both from inside and outside the Labour Party, including from Jess Philips herself. I’m pretty sure that I saw a stat in one of the stories of the historian Kate Williams a short while ago that showed Abbot has been subjected to more abuse than all female MPs combined.

But exercising such a degree of intellectual rigour in her research also involves the capacity to empathise with people who don’t look like her – not subjecting Abbot to and laughing at misogynoir jokes at Abbot’s expense.

people are becoming aware of the ‘tricks’ of the influencer trade and that can only be a good thing. Part of the reason I am here is because at the university I work at, many students choose to study different aspects of social media. Recently that has increasingly focused on the role of the influencer as a trusted friend online, and the many problems that entails.

As I am old(er) many of the people my students mention were unfamiliar to me, however Sali is someone I knew of and could relate to (like many here I’ve read her column for years, bought her books). It’s the psychology of it all I find fascinating. I am not a hater, I just feel manipulated, and I welcome a space to share that experience with others. These threads are honest, funny, interesting, diverse and inclusive – everything a good beauty column should be.

Let me get this straight. It’s ok to go on radio and refer to people here as sewer rats. That’s not trolling, it’s not directly landing in our inboxes, it’s a general announcement.

So, by the same token, why is it not ok to be on here, questioning what someone else does,(whilst having never, to the best of my knowledge, stooped so low as to hurl insults like sewer rat)? Which are not landing in her inbox or directed to her on social media. I’m genuinely baffled.

Yesterday someone responded to her on twitter stating that Tattle ‘deletes evidence’. Which I thought was pretty ironic given the deleting sprees that have occurred on twitter…

It’s an interesting discussion to be had as to what rights members of the public have to comment on someone that’s turned their life into a commodity. Where does free speech on a public figure end?

Social media influencers have benefited from the hugely unregulated world of advertising there. These people are the first to call for new regulations to protect them, but there’s little noise on new regulations to protect end users. The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK has been lumped with regulating this new advertising industry, but they’re under-resourced and not equipped to deal with the huge number of complaints. Sadly influencers know they’re very likely to get reprimanded from breaking the advertising rules so often flout them.

I’d love to know what you think of this opinion piece. Please let me know below.

There are currently 22 threads on Sali Highes on Tattle Life. However to quickly get up to speed you can click the “order by most liked” button on each thread to just read the most agreed with comments.


8 thoughts on “Sali Hughes Trolling – The Other Side Omitted by BBC Documentary?”

  1. Thanks for putting this together, I remember Sali being pretty nasty on twitter back in the day – she called this the good old days of twitter when you could say anything. She’s not such an innocent girl as she pretends to be. Notice today she’s out sharing how much charity work she does. People should give her a wide birth.

  2. She’s projecting everything she is on other people. Why do her friends and husband not tell her to talk to a professional if she’s struggling with negative comments?

  3. Really enjoyed this article, so well researched. Only wish some of these influencers would get to read it. Unfortunately they will only hear 1 side along with their viewers.

  4. This is an amazing article and applies so much to so many influencers who really need to dig deep into their souls (before they sell them for the highest bidder for a grid post) is this anything you have contributed to in your pursuit of wealth and power? There are always painful grains of truth in what you see as hate, that you put there yourself.

    Readers or contributors of Tattle were usually once fans, consumers and admirers; what leads people to seek another place to express their concerns and comments? A lack of free speech on social media. All comments that are deemed to be ‘negative’ that ask questions or query authenticity are deleted. Social media and influencing has become a place where anyone with a differing opinion and an inquisitive mind has become a ‘troll’. If I am to invest in your brand or recommendations, can I no longer do due diligence on whether you are authentic? Whether I should invest my hard earned money on something you are advertising? Whether I should spend my time reading or watching, if you are trustworthy? Why do we teach our children not to trust a stranger yet if you are an influencer on social media you can’t be questioned?

  5. I will fess up and say I like Sali. I dont spend much time reading what she posts about, but she comes across as genuine. I really liked your article too, it was thought provoking and made me question some of my experiences and things I’ve bought into.
    This is the patriarchy at its finest, in my view. The more we tear down those who are oppressed, the easier it is to distract us from the real fight, with the overwhelming white males who benefit from this. I will get down off my soap box, but I really appreciated that you referenced that too.

  6. Well done on this article – I have never understood why a journalist thinks public discussion about their writing is ‘trolling’.

    What does SH have to say about the unkind things she has written? And how does she justify her subsequent decisions to delete her comments? As someone who writes in the public domain SH should be held accountable.

    She doesn’t have any credibility to me.

    I thought The Guardian was a decent publication, but I just can’t bear to read it knowing SH is on their payroll.

  7. Esjay
    Thank you for this thoughtful article. I’ve always been adverse to social media. Now I’m wondering if it is inevitable in our lives and just as businesses are forced to go online, individuals need to form online identities. ‘Civil and strange’ was the motto of a family member who died of old age before any of our family had a computer in our houses. I do not envy people who have to commodity their lives to earn a crust, I never wanted to do this nor to create unpaid digital content for other people’s leisure times. I remember reader’s comments when Sali started her column and being revulsed at how bitchy and vitriolic they were to previous columnist. I like to think that twitter is evolving and morals and ethics will be a consideration. I am going to start a twitter account, I am grateful for your comments.


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