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Online abuse: The Greater Threat

Certainly here in the UK you would be hard pushed to avoid a news outlet not talking about online abuse and the disgraceful comments directed towards certain celebrities/personalities over recent weeks on Twitter.  I very much doubt we would have had as much exposure if the targets of these hate campaigns had been “us common folk”.

I’ll start by saying that anyone reading the awful comments made towards these people will agree that they are appalling, unacceptable and have no place at all in any sort of reasoned debate/world.  I’ll also say that in respect of the issue that caused this (more females appearing on bank notes) I fully supported this campaign at the time, I think notable women from history should have been on UK bank notes years ago without the need for a campaign to get the ball rolling – And if any of these Twitter abusers want to send threatening comments to me, please do so, we can all have a laugh at your expense.

And this is what the article is about.  Laughing.  Laughing at the commenter’s who made such disgusting remarks.  Perhaps the one issue of this story which sticks in my throat though is the fact that this has been going on for years.  I’ve had my wife threatened (via the comments section on this very blog) I’ve had accusations and insults thrown at me and even now, Microsoft Advocates that are anonymous on Usenet still abuse/insult myself and others – the reason? We support and champion an alternative to Microsoft.  Want to see what these “people” get up to? Check out the last 15 or so years of posts on comp.os.linux.advocacy by posters such as “Flatfish”, “DFS”, “Cola Zealot”, “Hadron” to name a few.  These people have spent around 15 years abusing regulars of that group under those and many other nyms – the “crime”? to dare to suggest that there may be better alternatives to Microsoft products. – I’ve never considered taking these issues to the police.  Why? Because I am an adult and can handle it myself.

So we go back to these celebrities and over the years there have been “big names” who have popped up, quite happy to use Twitter and similar to forward their careers, quite happy to engage in self promotion and the benefits that it provides.  Not so happy when the milk turns sour and instead of dealing with the problem themselves – as in doing the adult thing and ignoring, seem to wish to run to “teacher” and tell on the nasty people calling them names.

When I received a threat against my family, did I really think this threat would be carried out? Of course not, it was designed to upset and scare (which it didn’t).  Does anyone of sound mind think that if someone really did have an “evil plan” against you, they would advertise what they were going to do to you on a social network site before they did it to an audience of millions (and leave a trail of who they are?)  Of course not, its nonsense and their sole purpose (very similar to that of how some celebrities use social networking) is to get people to pay attention to them.

And what is this going to cost the rest of us? Well if these celebrities make a case out of the abuse then it opens the floodgates for every other person with a nasty message to make a complaint.  Who is going to investigate all this?  Where is the money coming from to do this?  Shall the responsibility be put onto Twitter (for example)? If so, then should a pub take responsibility for abuse directed at a person within its premises? Should BT be held responsible for every dodgy call that someone takes offence to?  How about the postal service? Shall we blame them?

You know where the cost will be – the taxpayer – you and me.

The whole situation is unworkable and as we are seeing now, the abuse continues but people will do so concealing their identity better, creating virtually untraceable abuse accounts merely out of devilment.

And what is an abusive message? Does it have to contain profanity? Can it only be a threat? Does it have to be directed at you? – Because there is no definition, the scope of complaints could be huge.

If you don’t like the messages you receive, block them.  Or you can expose them, use them to further highlight your point (which is what I do).  But report them to authorities like you’ve reverted back to the school yard? – I’d say no and if you can’t handle negativity, maybe consider removing yourself from the social network scene entirely.

And then we look at intelligent people’s actions in respect of abuse, we see Ms Beard:

Mary Beard, a professor of classics at the University of Cambridge, has already named and shamed one abuser, Oliver Rawlings, who sent her insulting sexual remarks but swiftly apologised after the feminist academic threatened to tell his mum.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/social-media/10224717/Image-of-man-brandishing-meat-cleaver-sent-to-MP-Stella-Creasy.html

Handled perfectly in an intelligent and adult way by a lady who doesn’t see Twitter as a method of self promotion and who is able to deal with things herself – full credit to her.

The future?

The government will love this.  The government, YOUR government, doesn’t like all this freedom the net offers its users, they don’t like people to have opinions, or to come together on issues which they agree.  The government wants to control the net, to better bend it to serve them so reactions to “Twitter abuse” serve that agenda very well.  The government I think will be very happy to “help” here.  They can legislate and tighten up the internet to better suit them and for the sake of a few childish messages that can be ignored, people are calling for tighter controls in order to lose the very freedoms that we enjoy online within the UK.

More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition set up by change.org which calls for Twitter to improve the way it deals with violent and threatening messages.

Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/social-media/10224717/Image-of-man-brandishing-meat-cleaver-sent-to-MP-Stella-Creasy.html

The hope the 100,000 or so signatories on the petition realize that and are happy in the future, where users are too frightened to post anything incase it is interpreted as being “abusive”.  Think  that won’t happen? It’s happening already, look at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-19009344 where a chap made a joke threat against an airport, ended up arrested and only now has had his conviction overturned on appeal.  Yes the “joke” was immature, but to anyone with half a brain it was a joke.  How much has the tax payer forked out to resolve this mess? And you want to see more of it? – If government changes legislation, you may not see such luxury as “a joke” and in the future find yourself self censoring to the point of silence merely out of fear.

This is the future you want, when the alternative to ignore, delete, block or expose is open to you?

And if anyone wants to drop in the examples of young people on social networking sites receiving abuse (as if in some way to justify the coming legislation), I respond by saying the same options are open to them and in anycase I won’t let my kids anywhere near social networking sites – I, like many others who do the same are what’s called responsible parents.  Maybe a term the current Jeremy Kyle generation could look up.

Contact points:

Mail: bytes4free@googlemail.com
Skype: tim.openbytes
Google+: https://plus.google.com/114824920343832764896/posts/p/pub
I can also be found in #techrights on freenode.net.
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About Tim Sparrow

Online tech writer, novelist/author of sci-fi literature and co-host of the TechBytes Show! I believe in multi-culturism & diversity. Luton Town FC supporter.

Discussion

3 thoughts on “Online abuse: The Greater Threat

  1. “Maybe a term the current Jeremy Kyle generation could look up.”
    ooh that’s cold

    Posted by onspiderpark | August 6, 2013, 4:31 pm
  2. Cold, but I think true. There’s a generation of appallingly behaved people out there who are great for shows like Jeremy Kyle, not so great for civilized society…

    The trouble is with the Kyle generation is that they are given the ability to reproduce, so you can see their “values” being passed down to yet another generation.

    Posted by openbytes | August 6, 2013, 4:39 pm

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about.me

Tim Wilson

Tim Wilson

Writer/Novelist of many facets both in the world of technology and fantasy/sci-fi. Co-host of the TechBytes audiocast and writer for both OpenBytes and Goblin's Domain. Supporter of free and open source software.

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