For the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of conversation in the mainstream media about twitter and trolling, which started after Charlotte Dawson was admitted to hospital after being sent a series of abusive tweets, and then Robbie Farah was upset by a comment made about his deceased mother, and then of course the politicians got involved.
Now, the Daily Tele has started a campaign to unmask/control the trolls, and the twittersphere has predictably gone nuts. Reactions on my twitterfeed have gone as they usually do: plenty of people using the #trollmovies hashtag or otherwise taking the piss out the Daily Tele’s campaign, interspersed with some serious discussion of the topic.
I can see why some people would feel like they need to stop the trolls. I’m all for vigorous debate and friendly stirring, but I don’t like seeing personal abuse. At #wawonkdrinks last Friday, I admitted that I wasn’t keen on some of the bullying that seems to have been going around recently; that I like twitter to be my ‘happy place’ and that people being nasty ruins it. I’m not a prominent tweeter, so I receive pretty much no personal abuse, but seeing someone make nasty comments to someone else still makes me a little sad.
Despite all of that, I don’t agree with the suggestion that there needs to be tighter legislation to ‘stop the trolls’ on twitter. One of the things I love most is the very ‘democratic’ nature of it – anyone can talk to anyone else. Unfortunately, that means the kind of people who say nasty things can also say nasty things to anyone they like (at least until they get blocked). John Birmingham has made the argument far better than I have, so I suggest you read his post if you haven’t already, but the main point is that there are already laws in place that allow the prosecution of internet trolls, but to ‘stop the trolls’ you need to decide what level of severity is worthy of action, and then devote the necessary resources to catching and prosecuting the troll in question. The fact that some humans are arseholes is not a problem with an easy solution.
Mostly, I hope that people don’t get so overwhelmed by trolls that they leave twitter. I enjoy my interactions with a wide variety of people, and I’d hate for that to change. In the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded of how thoroughly wonderful some people on twitter can be, and I’d like it if everyone could feel the same way.