Censoring Twitter would completely contradict its cause

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twitter-is-censored

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.

Accepting it

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.

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20 comments
adventcom
adventcom

The best piece of advice is : Don't feed the trolls.


And report abuse to the authorities.


But I do not agree that if you don't like twitter don't join... I should be free to join twitter and join in the global debate on whatever subject takes my fancy. I should not, however, by doing so accept what has been in many cases very strong and scary abuse from the trolls. I see no real difference between someone posting a hate message aimed at me on twitter, and sending the same on paper through the post - and both should be treated with the same severity in the eyes of the law. If someone wrote some of these comments down on paper, put it in an envelope, licked a stamp and then walked down to the post box the police would take the threat very seriously - especially if it were a threat of murder or rape. Why is this somehow different on twitter or facebook - because it is 140 characters? Because it is so simple to do? Because the trolls can hide behind anonymity? Probably a combination of all three. Until such time as these abuses are taken seriously and punishments are meted out to reflect the hurt and upset they cause, they will continue.

I would never want to see censorship. But on the other hand I would welcome the trolls being held to account.

Danfrench80
Danfrench80

While I don't want to see twitter censored I also believe they could do more to prevent abuse. It is far to easy to set up an account, abuse/threaten someone, then delete the account.

That said retweeting the abuse to all your followers is not a clever idea. People have the option of blocking trolls and also the option of protecting their accounts so they choose who follows them in the first place.

The bottom line is, if you don't like twitter, don't join.

maplester
maplester

I'm surprised that nobody's gone after Twitter. They are a publishing platform that regularly and frequently publish hate speech and death threats. To publish this material is illegal. Twitter will say "it's impossible for us to filter everything" in which case Twitter, you have a problem. You will have to find a solution, because until you do, you are publishing illegal material and you will either be shut down or the people running the service will go to jail. It's quite analogous to the Pirate Bay. With TPB users posted illegal stuff and the site was deemed illegal with the operators going to jail. I see no difference.

AllyFogg
AllyFogg

"Users will lose confidence in their ability to share unregulated comments and ultimately, take their conversations elsewhere."


Yeah, but the counter argument is that if they don't enforce their own rules and regulations, other users will take *their* conversations elsewhere. Would you rather have Twitter without a bunch of brainless racist rape-threateners or Twitter without their victims?


I loathe the use of criminal law and especially prison sentences for speech offences, but I do think that if Twitter or any other network invite people to join on condition that they observe certain house rules, then everyone should have a reasonable expectation that they will be working within those rules. There is no freedom of speech issue there, it's simply about playing by the rules. 


I think the big problem with both Collymore and Criado-Perez was that Twitter utterly failed to fulfil their own duty of care to their customers. If Twitter had done their job a bit better, there would be a lot less need for the police to get involved, and that's when it does get worrying for me. 

Mistyweavefish
Mistyweavefish

Why don't they just Block abusive trolls?

Caroline Criado-Perez is now telling people to F U and calling them Pxxxxx on her twitter feed (suspended), she is one of those people who stir things up and when the socially inept and sad individuals respond to her taunts she bleats to the Police and pursues them to prison.

Collymore similarly is the same, DV perpetrator and professional bleater.

Those trolls sent to prison is an outrage and waste of tax payers monies and an attack on freedom of speech.

Here is another good article on people being sent to jail for insults only:

http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/the_jailing_of_two_trolls_its_now_a_crime_to_be_insulting/14566#.UuOrR2TFKX0

Allofwhat
Allofwhat

You nailed it in the second paragraph. Trolls only message stuff like that to get a reaction from the victim. If you're plastering it all over the media that they abused you, they'll always come back because they know it's easy to get a reaction from you. If you ignore it, like Joey does, they'll eventually stop trying - simply because their efforts fall on deaf ears.

jpkeates
jpkeates

Actions that have consequences are usually more considered.


The people posting abuse are in three groups, kids, bored drunk people and actual bigots.

The only people who would be helped by being held to account are the young people who don't know that their actions are so deeply offensive and are part of a serious problem.


Bored/drunk people basically know what they're doing is wrong and do it anyway and bigots don't know they're wrong and are probably beyond the reach of a social media site to educate.


The only way to improve things is something that connects your on line persona with your actual personal details. The part of "anonymous online trolls" that is a problem is the first part.

And that requires someone like twitter to make changes that would defer recruitment (getting credit card details) and as Mr Collymore points out, that isn't in the interests of their business model.

reeceshields
reeceshields

Agree 100%. The negatives need to be deleted privately not shared even more to encourage others. Just simply get on with your life, as it is better than others.

MissDinamites
MissDinamites

Twitter gives everyone a voice.If anyone trolled me I'd block the accounts however many was necessary. Ignoring trolls is the way to deal with them. They feed on response, so starve them. Racists and death threats are different matters, cowardly but serious and should be dealt with by officials.

In the case of  Stan Collymore he was on tv claiming to have had enough of twitter trolls and being bullied, and he deactivated his account but within a day he was back up and running. Why make a bold statement and then backtrack? He was a bully towards his ex doesn't make any difference if it was 16 minutes or 16 years ago people don't forget such a cowardly act such as his. Naturally activists will let their thoughts be known. It's vile. He physically bullied his ex.
I believe people should be allowed to voice thoughts and opinions freely on twitter without being censored.

derekmorrison1
derekmorrison1

Twitter is public space. Behaviour in every public space is subject to laws designed to protect everyone, especially the vulnerable. I'm less concerned about mature adults like yourself or Stan Collymore than about youngsters for whom the abuse and bullying received on social media can lead, and has led several times, to tragic irreversible consequences. Censorship of personal views - never. Censorship of vile abuse - yes. If you send out the signal 'anything goes' here then more tragedies will inevitably follow.

jontylad
jontylad

No doubt some action to be taken on vicious trolling, however I am of the opinion Stan in his retweet attention grabbing madness doesn't help the situation and in negligence promotes people to become active in targeting him. Keep it private and it reduces the any form of glorification, even if that wasn't the objective a user retweet desired.

domm123
domm123

Difference is with the TPB situation, the people who want it gone (MPAA/RIAA/etc) are a commercial interest of the government's. Twitter is there for freedom of speech, and is blocked in many countries because of this

Mistyweavefish
Mistyweavefish

@AllyFogg Collymore and Criado-Perez are professional bleaters who stir things up then complain when the idiots respond over the top... 

Criado-Perez pretended to be scared of these foolish trolls to have them sent to jail. Anyone who believes she was genuinely scared of these socially backward idiots is wholly gullible. 

The foolish trolls who were sent to prison said things which are unedifying but are part of speech in certain communities, they were not at any stage at all believable as credible threats, merely insults.

Insults via twitter are now punishable with a prison sentence, when there is not the remotest possibility that the person on the end of the insult is in any physical danger.

Collymore and Criado-Perez could have used the Block button at any time but chose to retweet and to goad the idiots into responding with more insults... Both as bad as each other with their own personal issues they are deflecting by this victim campaign for self publicity they are running.

MissDinamites
MissDinamites

@MistyweavefishVery well put.  It a complete waste of tax payers money tweeters going to prison, racists and death threats should be dealt by twitter officials by deleting the offenders accounts. Blocking & Ignoring is the best way for all to react to trolls. Like Joey, it shows a rise above it ReTweeting abuse is pathetic drawing only attention to it. Which is the trolls aims.

GeorgieWasBest
GeorgieWasBest

@MissDinamites Ignoring is the only way to end trolling they will continue if they are RTd what is the point of RT them except for attention. Ignore ignore ignore.

Bc33
Bc33

Understand your point but drawing that line between personal views and bullying/abuse or even what some would consider vile abuse is the problem. Very difficult once you start judging whether speech is acceptable only if no one feels bullied, almost impossible. Not saying it should be a total free for all, direct threats of violence being the exception. Youngsters do pose a problem but there must be a better solution (parental supervision? Screening software?) than to censor it for everyone.

maplester
maplester

@domm123 The point being is that TPB defence was "it's not us, it's our users" this did them no good, the courts said "I'm sorry, although you are not doing the illegal copying, you created and run the platform that facilitates this illegal behaviour, therefore you are going to jail". If you can go to jail for facilitating the copying of a movie, then you should go to jail for facilitating death threats.