Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Time for Twitter to be legally accountable for harrassment and libel by anonymous trolls

 I had a very disturbing conversation with one of my friends yesterday. They stood in the council elections in 2018 and have been the victim of a malicious campaign of trolling by an individual with multiple anonymous Twitter accounts ever since. The sad individual who is conducting the campaign of harrassment continually sets up new accounts to make wild accusations. They also continually post insults then lock down accounts after posting abuse. My friend has identified over 25 accounts associated with the individual and has hundreds of screen shots of the abuse. Often posts are made in the middle of the night, with the spelling indicating misuse of drugs or alcohol. Amongst the various things that the Troll has done, has been posting my friends address and inviting people to harrass them.

The Police have investigated and have confirmed that there is definite harrassment and that the individual would be prosecuted if identified. The problem is that, whilst it is clear who the individual is, the anonymous nature of the accounts make it relatively difficult to pin them down, with the police informing my friend that there is 'currently insufficient evidence to support a prosecution'.

If my friend was the only person in the country to suffer from such deranged individuals, then this would perhaps not be worthy of a blog, but this pattern is repeated up and down the country. Anonymous keyboard warriors mount long and rather unhinged campaigns of hatred. BAME people and females such as Diane Abbot have been particluarly targeted by such people. I am all for free speech, but people have to be accountable. Twitter makes a fortune from its services, but takes no responsibility. My friend has reported over a hundred tweets and many friends have done the same, disgusted by the behaviour, but Twitter does nothing, other than report that the post has been received. 

It is clear that such a platform should not be there for hateful individuals to post bile anonymously with no legal comeback at all. It is time that Twitter should bear the legal responsibilty for such tweets, if the person posting them cannot be identified. We need a social media ombudsman that such behaviour can be reported to, and organisations such as Twitter should be forced to compensate victims of such campaigns. We are not talking about reasonable, legal and fair comments. We are talking about persistent targetted harrasment and abuse, dishonest claims about individuals and threats. No one should have to suffer months or years of anonymous abuse from Trolls. If social media firms are happy to have such people on their platforms and not do anything about it, then there should be a simple and free source of remedy, run by independent and objective authorities. We believe that if the social media giants were hit in the pocket, they would not be quite so lax in their policing of the platforms they run.

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