How often have you seen a TV Presenter or Journalist in particular complain about nastiness online, it is nearly always Facebook & Twitter who are targeted, just ask the Daily Telegraph... ;-)  So many celebrities & pseudo celebrities have called ‘Troll’ in the media and you would be under the impression that these scary nasty creatures were hiding under every rock, just ready to jump up and spread terror when you are least expecting it.

Julie Baird wrote a great piece today "Twitter opens a new world of abuse aimed at women" and I agree with just about everything Ms Baird has said, I just question why it seems to be Twitter that cops the most flack?

Twitter is the Social Media forum for abuse?

Ms Baird has mentioned a few issues that happened on Twitter, which is why I am assuming Twitter has been the Social Media channel being blamed for facilitating ‘new avenue’ of abuse?  In my experience, the likes of Facebook, Reddit, Google+  & the extremely scary Tumblr, can be a hell of a lot more terrifying when it comes to abuse, so I wonder whether media focus on Twitter as the most abusive, with Facebook coming 2nd in the online abuse stakes.  Is this due to Twitter being inhabited by so many Journalists so they actually see it, unlike the others?  As media entities like TV Shows, Newspapers etc like to build up their numbers on Facebook does this mean they pay attention to that only?  I rarely hear or see in our media any abuse/troll stories in regard to the other Social Media forums?  Maybe we need a few IT Journo’s to enter this mainstream commentary fray on a more regular basis?

Anonymous Handles

Sorry I find it difficult to agree with the whole, make people use their real names and you will stop online abuse.  For starters, smart people will just make up an alias, so that is redundant.  My biggest issue is, there are often very good reasons why people are anonymous.  It could be that they work in a position where the opinion they may have, is contrary to the company they work for and they don’t want to jeopardise their job, which is a fair call.  It could be a small town you live in and you really don’t need flack, yet want to interact with a wider community.  With some I know, it is because they are in a situation where due to bad relationships in the past, they sure as hell don’t want to be advertising where they are, yet still don’t want to be socially isolated.  Personally, I think there are more of these people online than the odd anonymous troll.  Though as Richard Chirgwin points out in "Nuance dies when Internet anonymity is debated" this conversation has been happening for many years... For those real name purists who wish to demand the same of others, maybe read "Surprisingly Good Evidence That Real Name Policies Fail To Improve Comments" and you might be surprised.

What the Hell is a Troll?

This word annoys the hell out of me as it is misused by all & sundry.   For full definitions “Trolling in asynchronous computer-mediated communication: From user discussions to academic definitions” by Claire Hardaker (Thank you Ben Harris-Roxas for tweeting this link) is hard work for a punter like me to read, though illuminating.  In my experience, true Trolls are not as common as media would have us believe.

“Troll seems to be in the eye of the beholder”

Often it will be someone who will relentlessly attack someone on social media, as Ms Baird is referring to, though too often it is used for someone who is just disagreeing, we then get professional ‘victims’ - sorry Ms Baird but there are quite a few high profile professional victims who have called ‘troll’ one time too many & muddy the debate for all.

Maybe we need to stop thinking of online as this separate world, is it really?

We then come to the ‘nasty’ troll...  Depending on the situation, this is the one where I am most perplexed.  Again, just like real life, I think the same standards should apply online.  If it is mild abuse, akin to someone whispering something nasty about you in the line at the check out, then just hold your head high & ignore it.  If it is in your face, yelling abuse at you, then again, as in real life I would expect that the people who you are surrounded with, would come to your rescue.  I know this has happened with me on Twitter before and I am terribly grateful for it.  I have also seen it happen at a football game, again, surrounding supporters came to the rescue & had the abusive jerk slinking off in no time.  So, the way I see it, again, it should be treated like real life, if you are not supported by the people around you, then maybe you should think about who you are associating with?

Then you get the people who call ‘Troll’ when in fact, it is just others not agreeing with your stated opinion.  They annoy me the most as they are the first to be high & mighty about ‘intolerence’, ‘abuse’ etc., when in fact, their tossing Troll back to someone who didn’t agree with them which is actually a mirror of their own actions / perception.  

We also know that there are just some who are ‘contrary’.  It doesn’t matter what hashtag is used, they can’t help themselves, they have to jump into a conversation, uninvited, tossing out a contrary opinion, often rather sharply in a condescending manner.  These people are a pain, but in reality, I feel sorry for them as obviously if they can only get self-esteem by trying to belittle others, they have a lot more going on themselves internally and personally, I prefer not to feed their petty little ego’s by bothering with them.

All the above we can find in real life situations as well, so maybe next time you encounter them, think about what you would do in real life?

I am not dissing the enormity of what Ms Baird raised in her column.  Fortunately I have only been on the receiving end of serious abuse a few times, though on one of those occasions I was honestly scared.  Too many write off being attacked online as not very important, but as people who know me, know, I am not exactly a snowflake, yet on one of these occasions in particular, I was terrified, the threat was palpable.  I was being attacked verbally on social media and my personal website was being hit by dos attacks, it was a serious concerted effort, which, had I been home alone could have had me swearing off both Social Media & Blogging forever.

To be quite frank, I knew the subject matter on both occasions would incur some flack, I was prepared for that, as basically, if you are going to put it out there, well, you have to expect some blow back.  Even I was not prepared for the intensity & I have been online for a bloody long time.  These are the really hard attacks to classify, as you are not getting the likes of death threats, therefore can’t report to Police as you have no ‘grounds’?  You are also not a commercial site, so again, you can’t report it as the likes of Industrial sabotage?   The ‘grey’ areas like this should be where Government are focussing in regard to looking at the internet, sadly, too many MP’s do not appear proficient enough at using their own email to even comprehend the rest of the online world :(

A Death threat or a Rape threat is NOT trolling.  It is a Death/Rape threat, and should be taken seriously, it should be taken to Police and they should action it, FULL STOP!

Instead of all the ridiculous feel-good bullying BS programmes that various levels of Government & Education spend a fortune on, (at the expense of actually ‘doing’ & holding bullies to account) maybe up the resources & knowledge of Police to actually catch & prosecute these people as they would in a real life Death/Rape threat situation?

I guess what I am saying is we need to stop over complicating this whole Troll business.  Twitter is a world of it's own, it can have sharp edges, some can be dangerous, though so does 'life'.  Therefore, maybe treat these internet threats & trolls as you would in real life.  IF you are threatened, be it death or rape threats, don't just complain to Twitter, also go to the Police.  IF you see a mate being harassed on Twitter, stand up for them, come to their rescue, would you stand by in 'real life' while a friend was roundly abused by some stranger in the street?

For me, Twitter has more good than barbs.

Noely Neate
Article By
Noely Neate
Talks too much on Twitter
Professional desk jockey
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