Troll Hunting on Twitter

This is not a troll

This is not a Troll

Earlier this month I wrote about Profanity in Social Media, being inspired by the small numbers of arrests that have been made because of offensive posts on social media sites like Twitter.

Now with the UK media embroiled in a full on pro-Olympian frenzy, the subject is back in the news.

An as yet 17 year old boy has been arrested (under the auspices of the Communications Act 2003) for tweeting Team GB athlete, Tom Daly, and telling him his Father (sadly deceased and reputedly a great inspiration to the athlete) would be disappointed in his performance…. something along the lines of:

You let your Dad down.

Granted, he’s also alleged to have threatened Tom and twitterbombed him throughout the evening.  Not really polite behaviour and certainly seeming to deserve the Olog related monicker.

As well as the discomfort of arrest, the 17 year old in question (reputedly @rileyy_69 on Twitter) has since had his Twitter account suspended and has been demonised in the news as an “Internet Troll“.

It’s difficult to judge for yourself as the tweets in question have been removed but the reports I have read state that the perpetrator tweeted his comment which was then retweeted by the victim, resulting in a great deal of support for Tom Daly and a number of accusations of idiocy for @rileyy_69.

If you scour twitter you can find references to an illusive threatening video that is alleged to be the real reason our teen-troll was arrested.  You can also find reference to a death threat that many articles neglect to mention, here.

Internet Gnoll

This is a Gnoll

The media furore since has branded the teenage tweeter “poisonous” and continued to feed the self-initiated hatestorm to the level that the original perpetrator could be said to be victim to massively multiple doses of his own medicine.

I don’t think anyone would deny that this news article has been overblown to new proportions because of the Olympics themselves and it is very easy for cynics like me to see this as an extension of the “Thou Shallt Not Befoul The Olympics” arm that seems to be slapping anyone and everyone at the moment.

It comes as no surprise to the conspiracy theorist in me that this debacle has sprung to light less than  a week after Paul Chambers won his appeal against his own tweet-related arrest in 2010.

The authorities must be over the moon that they have this opportunity to strengthen the use of the Communications Act in a scenario where the culprit is unlikely to gain popular celebrity support.

Whilst looking into Rileygate I came across this write-up that put the issues into context far better than I have here.

So, how does this latest “Twitter Arrest” effect the rest of us?

Still no trolls

Still no Trolls

Many of the Rileygate articles warn us, the general public, that we should be careful what we say online.  Whilst that may seem to be sage advice in the light of this teenage arrest, it still smacks of censorship.

Worse still, this is inconsistent censorship, that is half policed by us the public anyway. What is deemed wrong in one context may be overlooked in another and yet the search engines often neglects context when  returning their search results.

Look at the abuse piled on @Rileyy_69 since his victim brought his own friends and contacts into the mix… are they to be arrested too?

And all the while, actual trolling continues day after day unpunished; only the other day I had cause to write about the trolling and cyber-bullying that lady gamers suffer online.

So what do you think?

Do we need to be more careful in what we post online or should we take these articles in context and only worry if we’re consistently abusive to people?

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One thought on “Troll Hunting on Twitter

  1. I agree entirely. I’m a firm believer in freedom of speech and this latest incident follows on from the Fabrice Muamba twitter comments (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/mar/27/student-jailed-fabrice-muamba-tweets?).

    @Rileyy_69 was his own worst enemy in making such asinine comments and the vitriol that has been directed back at him is the equal at least of that which he directed at Tom Daley.

    It’s interesting, if not a little worrying, that this move implies that it is that it now a more serious crime to make offensive comments via social media than it is to make them in person, which makes no sense. Victims of internet trolls are at least partially to blame for their own situation. Now I’m not suggesting that people bring the insults on themselves and I also make a distinction between lone trollers and cyber bullies waging co-ordinated hate campaigns against individuals, but there is nothing at all stopping the user de-friending or removing followers who say something that offends them. Fair enough, you can’t dodge the first insult, but offending someone is not a crime. Now if @Rileyy_69 had turned up outside Tom Daley’s house hurling insults and followed him around doing the same, that’s a slightly different situation because you can’t just switch that off. However, the most likely outcome of that situation would be a restraining order and an ASBO. Given the precedent set in the Fabrice Muamba case, @Rileyy_69 could potentially face jail (although as his comments weren’t racist, he probably won’t be).

    The other worrying thing about this situation is the way that the law only really protects those with money, who live life in the public eye. Yes, the Olympics did cause this issue to be over-exaggerated but the same would be true for any celebrity. Comments like those made by @Rileyy_69 are made daily around the world and are normally resolved by complaining to the host site (facebook, twitter etc) who will suspend or ban problem users. It would take a real concerted effort on the part of the Troll for what they say to become of interest to the police; unless of course you say it to a celebrity.

    As Votaire said (or rather, didn’t say), “I disagree with what you say but will fight to the death to defend you right to say it”. @Rileyy_69 is clearly a knob head whose opinions are ill considered and hardly worth hearing. However they are his opinions and has every right to hold them and have them heard, but in doing so accepts that other people have the right to mock him and belittle him for having such ill-formed opinions. If his opinions offend, retaliate with whit and intelligence or just block him from your twitter or facebook feed. But unless he’s persistently trolling you by creating new accounts each time he’s blocked, there is no need for police involvement.

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