Tuesday 9 November 2021

How to properly resolve the problems of Trolls on Social media.

They say "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger". I've come to realise that this isn't 100% true. It may make you more resiliant, although that is a different thing altogether. They also say "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me". If there was any truth in this, people would have long ago given up making sly digs. Bottling things up and putting on a brave face is very out of fashion. It seems to me that the days where we suffered in silence are gone. Now we have all manner of support and counselling services available to us. There are help lines, charities, self help groups, facebook groups and whatsapp groups for just about everything. I've long been of the opinion that sharing information and supporting each other is the way forward. The concept of 'leaving no one behind' should in theory be one we all buy into. If you'd have asked me a few weeks ago, I'd have had no issue with any of this. However....

There is another saying 'the wolf in sheeps clothes'. In the past few months I've heard several unrelated horror stories of people who have sought support on various web forums, only to fall upon wolves posing as sheep. I'd taken it as read that putting it out there was a good thing. But there is something called human nature that is sadly a fact of life and where there is vulnerability, there are those lurking to take advantage of it. Many Facebook groups exist for all manner of issues, mostly moderated by wonderful people, who give their time fo free. However, I've seen a couple of shocking examples of predatory behaviour recently by members of the groups.

My own experiences of how social media companies deal with trolls has been quite a revelation. They do absolutely nothing, despite clear and repeated reports of all manner of harrassment and other bad behaviours. I'm a robust soul, once I realised that these companies were not on my side, but they provided useful platforms, I developed my own strategy for dealing with the Trolls (block/Ignore/cut off the oxygen). However what happens when someone isn't robust and they let the sharks into their space? They will get no support from the companies that make a fortune from their platforms. What starts as joining a group for benign support can easily escalate into something far more sinister. 

What doesn't kill you may make you stronger, but only if you get the chance to recover. I've had two dear friends lose children over the last eighteen months and it is clear to me that social media groups played some sort of role (how much we'll never really know) in what happened.

As it is clear that the social media giants will do nothing, it is time that the regulators did. To me, there should be some sort of free remedy for those that become aware of problem users on the platforms. As it is clear that the companies do nothing about reports, there should be independent third party review of complaints. This should be funded by the companies, but run by a completely seperate entity. There should be a fixed service level agreement for dealing with complaints. Problem accounts should be suspended within 24 hours. Depending of the severity of breaches, this could be a permanent ban, or a two strike system (if it was a lesser infringement), where a user gets a stern warning, followed by a permanent ban. Of course, some complaints are unreasonable or unfounded, but it should not be up to social media companies to set the rules. What is interesting is that I know of several people who have been banned from Facebook for posting 'inappropriate' images, but no one who has been banned for Trolling (except where blue tick celebrities are involved). I suspect that no one ever looks at 99.9% of reports. Generally if you get anything, it says "No breach has taken place" even when someone has made death threats, incited people to throw stones at your business, put your address and a picture of your house up alongside veiled threats and posted pictures of your underage relatives with threats about you. All of these things have happened to my friends, family and myself at the hands of trolls. I take it with a pinch of salt. Once I realised no one read the troll accounts, or even took any notice of them, I realised it was silly to get upset about the behaviour. But there are people who are vulnerable, people who need proper protection and they are not getting it. This can only be done when Trolls and other malevolent people are slung off and stay slung off. 

The social media companies make billions. There should be a levy taken from their profits, to ensure that their users are not put at risk. As for fraud and scammers, there really should be a mechanism for dealing with them and the platforms should compensate the victims. Advertisers should have to demonstrate that they are proper, bona fide businesses. Private sellers should be made to register addresses and bank accounts. None of these problems are new, but nothing has been done to address it. The social media industry wont, so the government needs to step in. 

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