They said what!?!

There has been a lot of media attention being given to mostly the Twitter trolls.

Twitter is not the only social media site to have its fair share of trolls but is the one to receive the most attention recently.

The argument surrounding Twitter and other social media sites is the anonymity of a troll and that many high-profile people have been verbally attacked. Revisiting the ongoing debate as to how those that are found to have sent the abusive messages should be dealt with and should social media be monitored.

To my understanding the virtual social world removes human interaction and is not always likened to the ‘real’ world. Users prefer to have the option to create a different persona for themselves.

Social media encourages users to be free thinking and message these thoughts, most of the time without any legal repercussions, and knowing networks will protect their identity.

So why protect the trolls, what about those that are on the receiving end of the offensive messages? Many would say if the person believes in what they are tweeting then why hide behind a pseudonym, why not reveal themselves and stand by their comments?

There have been discussions of policing Twitter, but is this a realistic task? In reality there are laws against most forms of discrimination but can these effectively be applied to the virtual world?

What guidelines would be in place to determine if a message is offensive and if the messages have been posted under an assumed identity then isn’t it up to the network provider to provide the relevant authorities with the real identity of this person?

An incident involving the Olympic diver Tom Daley receiving  homophobic tweets was publicised. Despite the nature of the tweets and knowing the identification of the ‘tweeter’ no charges were brought against them.  According the Communications Act 2003 it is an offence to send a communication using a public electronic communications network if that communication is ‘grossly offensive’ In this case it was decided the message aimed at Tom Daley was ‘not so grossly offensive that criminal charges need to be brought

The legal system has to rethink how they approach matters involving social media. ‘The fact that offensive remarks may not warrant a full criminal prosecution does not necessarily mean that no action should be taken.’

In this incident the employers of the person responsible felt it necessary to take action and suspend the individual whilst the investigation took place.

There are positive benefits to the anonymity of Twitter as mentioned in this article, ‘Tackling the Twitter trolls’.

‘It gets tricky because Twitter can be used anonymously very positively, such as by journalists or people in political danger, to get information out. That is the beauty of Twitter. It’s a double-edged sword. If trolls are identified, the same rule could be applied to those using that anonymity for good.’

Conclusion

The social world is global, I personally don’t see how it would be realistically possible to bring charges against each and every single person who tweets a ‘grossly offensive’ message, assuming that message is even brought to the attention of the relevant authorities.

As much as we would like networks such as Twitter & Facebook to step up and take action against those that are seen to bully other users it is a major task. In the short-term the likes of Twitter and Facebook can take steps to prevent recognised people from abusing their freedom of speech, as that’s how I see it, but in the long-term there is little preventing the troll from returning. They can create new accounts with different email addresses, use different names, change IP address etc making it difficult to track them.

We may not be able to fully eliminate this behaviour which sadly is part of human nature, but we don’t have to sit back and take it either. Take back the power and control.

  1. Ignore them. Think ‘Do not feed the troll’.
  2. Delete comments made and block the user.
  3. Report the troll to the administrator

References

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-19661950

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/no-charges-over-abusive-tom-daley-tweet-8159727.html

http://www.bandt.com.au/news/digital/tackling-the-twitter-trolls

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/9555382/Twitter-abuse-the-ugly-face-of-microblogging.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/9555074/Twitter-ruling-full-statement-from-Director-of-Public-Prosecutions.html

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