After Stan Collymore deleted his Twitter account this week following a barrage of racist tweets in relation to Suarez’s ‘dive’ on Sunday, questions, again, begin to surface on whether or not the 140-character social platform should be censored?
The ex-Villa, Liverpool and Forest striker, has gone on record claiming Twitter is ‘not doing enough to combat racist/homophobic/sexist hate messages, all of which are illegal in the UK.’ I can share some sympathy for Collymore, because as you’re probably aware I’m no stranger to the ‘troll’, but for me, deleting the account isn’t the answer. Shouldn’t a troll victim, avoid responding and propelling the tweets further into the public sphere and instead shared privately with the police and Twitter – restricting the trolls from the nectar they sought – a reaction. It depends if you feel like a victim, I suppose, but if you do then don’t encourage it!
Unfortunately for Collymore, the likelihood of bringing his attackers to justice was made more difficult by fuelling them further; I can however empathise with him. The media – in particular The Sun – was a catalyst for the abuse and I find it disgraceful. As Collymore rightly puts it before re-joining Twitter; “the ‘15-year-old story…had no relevance to being racially abused”. But the media will forever dish the dirt for their own benefit, selling the ‘stories’ matters more to them.
A sad case
Caroline Criado-Perez’s case provides further insight that Collymore may struggle to bring his alleged abusers to justice. Criado-Perez was threatened with rape and murder, after campaigning for Jane Austen to feature on the new £10 note. Despite months trying to get Twitter to close the accounts of her abusers, it was in fact a Newsnight producer who tracked down one of the accounts that led to charging just two of the 80 involved.
Many would argue there’s no place for these infectious comments, full stop. But inevitably a minority will stretch the boundaries of what’s ethical and socially acceptable for their own personal esteem. Social media contributors are encouraged to abide the rulebook. Or that’s what we’re made to believe. Because according to Twitter:
Direct, targeted abuse and specific threats of violence are against our rules…we also have a clear process for working with the police…our priority is that users are able to express themselves, within acceptable limits and, of course, within the law.
The conflict of censoring
Arguably, in both the cases I’ve discussed, Twitter hasn’t appeared too keen to assist the authorities. So what’s next, censorship? Never. If the likes of Twitter, Facebook and you could even argue the Government, began controlling what’s being said across social networks, you’re likely to run into a tirade of difficulties:
- It contradicts freedom of speech worldwide. The countries that currently engage in censorship are precisely the ones that need it. This has never been more apparent than the Arab Spring that began in 2010
- It sends views that certain messages are acceptable versus others – Twitter can be seen as bias towards particular views. This should be for its users to converse and argue against
- It shows lack a of confidence towards Twitter’s open forum by protecting users from freedom of expression
- It quashes healthy debate as it removes arguments based on Twitter’s recommendations and beliefs
You could make a case that Twitter is a business and not a government entity, and for that reason, can censor whatever it sees fit. Perhaps that’s true, but censoring Twitter would be like visiting McDonalds and having to choose between a lettuce leaf and a tomato – by banishing one of the key ingredient’s to Twitter’s success you’re effectively destroying what makes it so popular. Users will lose confidence in their ability to share unregulated comments and ultimately, take their conversations elsewhere.
Ignoring the haters
Twitter does implement takedown notices from Hollywood and the recording industry, in the United States. Obviously removing these tweets for infringing copyright isn’t the same as blacking out calls for government protest or upheaval, but it’s censorship nonetheless, albeit on a commercial level. Shouldn’t a similar logic apply to those abused victims on Twitter too? I think it depends on your perspective. I’ve already said that I don’t class myself a victim of trolls. As tweeted on Wednesday, I choose not to accept the derogatory comments and just put them down to a lack of intelligence on that person, it’s playground bo***cks. If an individual chooses to publically showcase their narrow-minded and shameful comments they are setting themselves up for humiliation, if anything. I find it slightly humorous. That said, I respect and appreciate some can, and do find it hugely offensive. We’re all different.
For me, it’s not worth getting too hung up on. As a public figure that divides opinion and whose past has been well documented, I’m inevitably going to attract unsavoury and often threatening comments and I wouldn’t want that to change. It’s a part of me.
You can’t pick and choose the advantages of Twitter, without accepting the negatives. This is life in and outside of social networks. Censoring Twitter would only benefit the few that take those comments to heart. My methods work for me, in my world.
Caroline Criado-Perez’s case is a particularly unsavoury one, but it doesn’t make me question Twitter’s open platform. We can’t face abusive and violent voices by simply shutting the curtains, knowing that they are still there. We need healthy and productive debate, to understand and plan for a future that brings on a wiser generation. Less hate and more debate!
Have you considered the likelihood of your tweets being censored? Would you continue to use Twitter? Let me now your thoughts below.