A petition calling on the BBC to sack its political editor Laura Kuenssberg has been removed by its creators after trolls "hijacked" the campaign and flooded the journalist with a string of sexist messages.
Hosted on lobbying group 38 Degrees' website, the petition implored the broadcaster to let go of its first female political editor, accusing Kuenssberg of being biased against Labour in relation to her coverage of the UK local and regional elections last week.
The campaign has since been removed by founder Joe Haydon, who said: "When I started my campaign I was trying to raise a serious issue about what I saw as a reporter not being balanced and fair in the way that the news was covered. My petition has since been hijacked by a group of people who absolutely do not share my views.
"I would like to reassure everyone that I am a passionate advocate for equality in all areas, not just gender equality. This petition has precisely zero to do with gender.
"As a result of the sexist trolls who have attempted to derail my petition, I have decided to take it down."
Some 35,000 people lent their signatures to the campaign, but before its removal MPs and journalists noted that several of the comments made by those sharing the campaign carried a misogynistic undertone.
— Michelle Beckett (@MichelleBeckett) May 7, 2016
I have to say, I think attack on @bbclaurak is underlined with institutional sexism by people who dont even know they are perpetrators — Jess Phillips MP (@jessphillips) May 8, 2016
Speaking to the Guardian, 38 Degrees executive director David Babbs said it worked with Haydon to take down the petition.
“I am really concerned that a petition hosted on the 38 Degrees website has been hijacked, and used as a focal point for sexist and hateful abuse made towards Laura Kuenssberg on Twitter.
"That is totally unacceptable and, with the agreement of the petition starter, we’ve taken the petition down to prevent it being used in this way. There is no place in the 38 Degrees family for sexism or any form of discrimination or hate speech," he added.