And it’s all hell let loose on Twitter. Again.
Yesterday’s events on Twitter have finally gone mainstream with Caroline Criado-Perez being bombarded with various threats ranging from rape to death via Twitter, resulting in the proposal by a few of Twitters high profile users (ie. those who earn a living from using twitter) for a boycott of the free service they willingly exploit every day to spread their opinions and climb the greasy pole of journalism. August 4th is set to become a #trolliday where nice people refrain from posting pictures of their lunch or trying to flog their books for 24 hours because they have no way to silence their critics.
For the sake of the terminally stupid, I’m going to try to explain the difference between a “troll” and someone who makes a threat of violence on a social network. As an avid twitter commentator and satirist, I am regularly accused of being an abusive troll – mainly based on the fact that someone decides to take offense at something I’ve written and can’t be bothered to argue. I’m currently on my 27th twitter account because with enough followers, you can simply target a twitter user and summon the twitter mob (your followers) to bombard them “block and spam” reports. The algorithms used by twitter then determine if your account survives – enough reports and out the door you go – silenced by your critics.
I receive death threats pretty much every day, as does my wife and family, employers, customers, the dog and anyone who knows me. We’ve all watched flame wars break out since the very first Compuserve account was launched – we all know there are idiots out there and we all know that making death threats is already illegal, so why the big fuss?
If we decide that Twitter is only for posting pictures of kittens and for celebrities to flog us more tat, we will have ruined one of the only free speech platforms we are still allowed to use. Yes, it can be ugly, like a loud row in a pub or fantastic as a method to interact socially and spread news and information and already has enough mechanisms built in to block abusive users or those who do not sing from your hymn sheet – anything further is simply a matter for the Police. Twitter is not a human right, free speech is.
Whilst Caitlin Moran struts around deciding what the rest of us can say on a free medium, Governments are itching to slap another level of moderation on what we can and cannot say to each other. Do we really want celebrities, backed up by arse licking Politicians to be the arbiters of free speech? Abusive, offensive, shocking and rude tweets are all perfectly legal. Death threats are not.
Careful what you wish for, Twitter users, you might just get it. Nothing would please our masters more than our obedient and compliant silence.