Pressure Grows On Twitter To Curb Abusive “Trolls” That Have Already Fairly Effectively Been Dealt With

As people have become progressively more wimpy and feminized, we’re hearing more and more calls for legislative and corporate action designed to prevent people from being mean to each other.

Yes, really.

That’s what has happened with bullying despite the fact that: hitting bullies in the mouth is an effective way of dealing with the problem: that stretches back centuries.

Now, the next step in: wimpifying the planet: is preventing “trolling” on Twitter.

Calls for Twitter to clamp down on so-called “trolls” sending abusive hate messages via the social networking site intensified yesterday after a string of high-profile attacks on famous names including the diver Tom Daley. Coronation Street’s Shobna Gulati, and the Conservative MP Louise Mensch. Even the father of Daley’s internet abuser said the company needed to take action to stop the disturbing practice.

Their appeals came after a flurry of Twitter vitriol attracted police and public attention last week. The first incident involved the teenage Olympian Tom Daley, who received a string of malicious tweets from 17-year-old Reece Messer after he missed out on a medal. Appearing under the Twitter name “Rileyy_69″, the messages also referred to Daley’s father, Rob, who died of cancer last year.

One said: “You let your dad down I hope you know that”, while another threatened to drown the sports star. The BBC Olympics presenter Gary Lineker revealed shortly afterwards that he felt “physically sick” after a Twitter troll mocked his son George over his childhood battle with leukaemia. The 23-year-old swimmer Rebecca Adlington and 18-year-old weightlifter Zoe Smith have also received taunts. And last Thursday the Blue Peter host Helen Skelton decided to quit Twitter completely because of the abuse she was receiving.

The latest attacks have prompted fresh calls for a stricter clampdown on the social networking site.

Ms Gulati, who has also abandoned tweeting to escape bullying, said it was about time the firm took action to solve the troll problem. “Twitter is a great social networking tool, but they need to examine their methods,” she said. Ms Gulati left the site after trolls posted mutilated photographs of her and sent a stream of racist comments. One tweeted insult read: “You’re not British, you’re foreign.” Another said: “You have got to be the ugliest f*cker I’ve seen.”

Ms Gulati said: “It was horrific. It’s nasty, abusive and scary. It throws you off balance — people are not what they seem.” She said she had previously enjoyed being on Twitter because of the human interaction. “I really enjoyed Twitter and thought it was a fun thing. It gave me access to people that I wouldn’t normally have access to. I was known as a re-tweeter and that was one of the reasons I was on there, to re-tweet and promote people’s good causes. I loved communicating with people who loved Corrie and the other programmes I was in.”

But Ms Gulati, 45, said she believes she was targeted in part because of her public profile. She finally quit as there seemed to be no other way to escape the trolls stalking her. “If you’re bullied when you’re small you’re taught mechanisms to deal with that,” she said. “You look at it and you think: is this allowed? And seemingly it is. There are two things you can do with trolls on Twitter. You can report them and block them, but they can reinvent themselves and come back. One of my Twitter trolls reinvented themselves and said: ‘I’ll always be here to bother you.’”

Doing what I do for a living, I’ve had every vulgar, obnoxious, stupid thing said about me that can possibly be said. I’ve heard it all so much that I don’t pay much attention to it anymore unless it’s amusing enough that it might be worth doing a post on it – and most of it’s not. These losers think they’re so original, but on Twitter I probably have 3 liberals a week who follow my account (among other conservatives), tweet something boring about how they don’t like my articles and think I’m a jerk – it’s like they think they’re doing something amazingly creative. I generally just ignore it, but if they’re persistent or particularly annoying, I use the block button and they’re gone. That being said, it’s easy to see how it would be much more disconcerting to people who haven’t had to deal with this kind of abuse before.

Additionally, the article is correct: They can also create another account if they’re blocked or reported, but the unfortunate reality is that there’s nothing Twitter can do to stop them. That’s just how the net works and it’s one of the reasons I’ve long since advocated getting rid of anonymity on the Internet when “Internet 2.0″ finally becomes a reality. It you want to ban someone from your website, it should be doable.

Getting beyond that, Twitter: doesn’t allow: an account to engage in impersonation, violence, threats, or publish private information. Just policing that for over 500 million users is a herculanean task. Trying to get Twitter to be kindergarten cops and decide who’s being mean to whom and whether it’s egregious enough to merit a ban would probably require hundreds, if not thousands of new employees.

The truth is that this isn’t a Twitter problem, it’s an Internet problem caused by anonymity and distance. The farther the nose of someone with no social skills gets from your fist and the more effectively he can hide his identity from you, the more likely it is that he’s going to act like a creep. That’s why, just about anywhere you see human beings interacting on the Internet, there are a few people talking in a way that would lead to their heads being bounced off the pavement in real life.

With that in mind, just be happy the block button exists and use it at the drop of a hat. It will eliminate 99% of your problems on Twitter, although it can’t stop socially maladapted losers from running their mouths in the first place.

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