Sunday, 4 August 2013

Trolls, vigilantes and vigilante trolls.

There's been a lot of talk recently about the creation of a "Report Abuse" button on Twitter. There's already a procedure to report abuse and you're able to block users from tweeting @ you, but this would make it easier to do so. When launched, in my opinion the Report Abuse button will help create two new groups on Twitter.


It's always been possible to seek out and join in the conversation of others on Twitter, it's one of the great things about the medium. The Report Abuse button will make it much easier for people to try to stop conversations happening.

It goes without saying that everyone has different views and that expends to what constitutes abuse too. Journalist Caitlin Moran seems to dislike misogynistic language but has usesd phrases like "bum boy", "tranny", "mong" and "spaz" which others might find offensive, for example.

One person's humour is another's abusive language and being able to find and then report what one might deem as offensive a lot easier will lead to vigilantes, looking for things they dislike and reporting them.

Imagine an army of cyber Mary Whitehouses trawling Twitter, seeking out content to be offended by and you'll not be too far off what might happen.

 Vigilantes Trolls
Though designed to combat trolling, the Report Abuse button will become another weapon in the armoury of the troll. Trolling is seen as something new but it's not, flaming, bashing and trolling have been around for as long as one has been able to talk converse with someone else on the internet.

The recent spate of disgusting tweets directed at a number of media celebrities has come from not one or two sources but tens, perhaps even hundreds. Given the nature of the perception of abuse it would be quite easy to invent a spurious reason for offence and for hundreds of people to then report this "abuse" silencing the very people calling for the trolls to be removed from Twitter.

If a hundred people phoned me up and used threatening language, I wouldn't be expected to report every call to the phone company. There's only way to stop real abuse on Twitter, don't shoot the messenger and demand Twitter fix the problem, report it to the Police.
This blog is written by Phil Rumens, Vice-Chair of LocalGov Digital, lead for LGMakers and who manages the digital services team at a local authority in England.

The opinions expressed in this weblog are my own personal views and in no way represent any organisation I may have worked for, currently work for, might be thinking of working for, might not be thinking of working for or have never worked for. In fact having said that they, might not even be my views any more as I might have changed my mind so I wouldn't take any of it too seriously.