With the recent increase in personal attacks on social media sites such as twitter we’ve become more vocal about what should or shouldn’t be done in an effort to control it and to punish the offenders.
In a perfect world there wouldn’t be any need to worry of course because there wouldn’t be despicable cowards that write such hate filled comments. Alas it’s not a perfect world so second best would be to remove the ‘safety’ barrier these sick fucks use - that of anonymity. Sites such as twitter merely need to find and introduce a way for people to use real names that are then confirmed / verified before an account can be used. However, the best thing about twitter (there are very few good things) is that it is a platform that allows people to comment and express themselves in an environment where they otherwise might be punished, China for example. A point that I have to agree with and give merit for. When I had a twitter account I did use twitter to express myself in a very ‘no holds barred’ way and like many other people, this media allowed me to vent and provided a therapeutic tool for me. I couldn’t do this as freely if twitter was run any differently and that’s why I support the ability to remain anonymous.
Whilst reading the comments sections of the various articles relating to bullying and harassment online, a common response seen is “If you don’t like to see bad comments simple stop using the service” - This pisses me off more than any other so called “solution”. Why should people have to stop using a service? Why should it be the victim that has to be punished in such a manner? Where do you draw the line? Should people stop going outside because they aren’t comfortable seeing the violence and hearing the foul language that has become an increased occurrence on our streets? Since when have we become a society where we just let the bullies and the morons rule? Another wonderful response I’ve seen numerous times is “There are horrible people in all walks of life, man-up or get out” - Again, my same point stands? Why should we have to do either? Why can’t the answer be “punish those people causing the offence”? The question is of course, how?
Many people (most recently, in the UK) have criticised people for contacting the police whereas others are calling for more and tougher police involvement. I think there are cases where it is perfectly justifiable to involve the police but I don’t think they need to be involved every single time someone receives a comment they aren’t happy about. What I do think though is that the sites themselves need to more proactive. Twitter for example once said that they don’t feel it’s their place to police their website; I say they have an obligation to its users to police the site more.
I’ve written before about how useless the block feature on twitter used to be (though thankfully they have improved it enormously) and yes it is one way that someone can protect themselves from hateful tweets. The trouble is that people can set up numerous accounts and / or the attacks can be from many people making it difficult to block them all.
There isn’t a realistic way to stop people seeing hateful tweets (without moderating them all before publishing) but two things the likes of twitter can do are: Act faster to reports of abuse from the users and implement some better way to ensure offenders can’t continue. The latter of course is very difficult to achieve without asking people to verify their accounts however local laws can be created to ensure offenders are suitably punished. People should be fined, heavily and for severe cases, jailed. We need to create a deterrent. I firmly believe that creating a deterrent is the only realistic method of reducing the problem.
Now I can hear people crying out about “freedom of speech”. Of course I believe, endorse and will protect our freedom of speech but… well fuck you. Freedom of speech should not be at the expense of other people’s rights; their right not to be bullied, harassed or otherwise subjected to hateful interactions. I appreciate this is very tricky ground to cover and make effective as I AM a believer of freedom of speech. But personal, hateful attacks on people, targeted ‘campaigns’ should not be protected under freedom of speech. It’s one thing to say “fucking students need a good kick in the teeth sometimes” but another to say “I wish [that student] would get stabbed in the cunt with a shovel” or worse “I’m going to stab [that student] in the cunt with a shovel”. But even with the latter examples, I accept that context needs to be taken into account. If it’s targeted at someone in response to something horrific they have said then they’ve pretty much invited the response and they need to take responsibility and certainly give up their right to complain about the response. But there should be a line drawn and in a modern society I think we can very successfully draw such a line and defend it with any reasonable action.
Online / cyber bullying needs to be stopped. The people found guilty of such thing should be named, judged and punished. We don’t tolerate people stealing from us, we don’t tolerate people abusing us in the street so why should we tolerate it online?
I don’t have a complete answer, I’m not even sure we can have one as the paradox should always remain. But we can certainly do a damned sight more than we are now. Something I’ve said for a long time and something for a post all of its own is: You can’t have true freedom, you have to choose between the freedoms of an individual and the RIGHTS of the people. You have to decide whether or not the people are more important than any one individual. As I’m sure you’ve heard people say before, without laws we can’t have freedom. Another paradox for you.
People have the right to express their opinion. People have the right to be protected from harm and when that protection fails or is ineffective then those causing harm should be punished. And those organisations that directly, indirectly or by failure to prevent, allow one person to be harmed by another need to step up and take action; they need to take responsibility and do everything they can to either protect the people or punish the guilty.
That last sounds too much like preaching so I’ll stop here. Please let me know your thoughts on this subject and / or on anything I’ve said.