Beware the Twitter troll
Internet trolls are nothing new, as long as the internet has been around people have used it as a forum to complain, shock and rant. But over the past few weeks there have been several stories of trolling that have reopened the debate regarding censorship on the internet.
First, there was the story of diver Tom Daley who after finishing 4th in the 10m synchronized diving at the Olympics received a stream of abuse from an English teenager. The teenage troll stood strong against the barrage of criticism his tweets received, until he reluctantly recanted following a police investigation.
Then there was the story of the former Big Brother contestant who was sending out vile messages to Gary Barlow in the wake of his recent family tragedy. The list goes on and on, there’s Gary Linker and Kirstie Allsopp along with the Coronation star who quit twitter over the racist abuse she received. These are just in the past two weeks.
I can’t say I’ve never tweeted a bad word about a celebrity (sometimes Jessie J’s nude catsuits just need to be commented on), but the tweets posted by these trolls cross the line of human decency.
What encourages this kind of vitriol? Personally I think that these trolls tend to forget (or possibly don’t care) that their comments are being read by real people (even if they are celebrities). Twitter gives them a forum to broadcast their views and gain notoriety, which is generally their ultimate goal.
The media has been quick to criticize the social network for not doing enough to curb this abuse, but it’s really not as simple as some might think. When Twitter takes the significant step of closing a user’s account, it can often be criticized for censorship and even then there is nothing to stop the user setting up a new account with a different email address.
Thankfully, the majority of the twitter community has risen to protect the celebrities and in doing so are probably protecting twitter itself. I love twitter and would hate to think that the network, which should be about connecting with people and having fun, is being twisted as a vehicle for hate. The fact that when Tom Daley tweeted about the abuse he had received twitter stood up to defend him says more about the social network then the spiteful rant of a troubled teen. While there will always be trolls, as long as there are real people with a sense of community who are willing to stand up for the maligned then twitter will continue to thrive.