Op-Ed: Twitter abuse brings UK charges, but problem far from solved

Posted Aug 3, 2013 by Paul Wallis
The women who advocated that Jane Austen should be featured on the new £10 note were subjected to threats of rape and bombing. Twitter has now apologized and will now include an abuse button. Charges have been laid against two people.
Twitter employees at Twitter s headquarters in the US.
Twitter employees at Twitter's headquarters in the US.
File photo: nancybroden
Two people have been arrested in relation to rape threats against Labour MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who received the threats after a campaign to have Jane Austen on the new £10 note.
The Guardian's Hadley Freeman, the Independent's Grace Dent and Time magazine's Catherine Mayer all said they had received identical bomb threats on Wednesday.
The revelations sparked a backlash online, with a petition calling for Twitter to add a "report abuse" button to tweets attracting more than 125,000 signatures so far.
OK, so everyone’s mad as hell… again. The reason for the abuse is absurd and unjustifiable… again. A few nutcases apparently haven’t noticed that Queen Elizabeth II, also female, is pretty visible on UK currency to some degree.
The problem of abusive social media is the last frontier of internet trolldom.
The pattern is:
Someone expresses an opinion or has an unhappy experience.
 A tide of abuse surges in.
 Nothing much happens, 99% of the time.
 YouTube is awash with abuse of every known kind.
 Facebook isn’t much better, with an abuse button.
 Bullying is now a plague.
What won’t happen:
 Account killing.
 Legal action.
 Charges (The UK charges are atypical. You couldn’t fill a thimble with cases of actual follow up of online abuse.)
Online abuse is a disease. The world’s greatest ever communications medium is saturated with fecal materials from the world’s lowest common denominators.
According to Bullying
The Cyberbullying Research Center also did a series of surveys that found these cyber bullying statistics:
• Over 80 percent of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyber bullying
• About half of young people have experienced some form of cyber bullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly
• Mean, hurtful comments and spreading rumors are the most common type of cyber bullying
• Girls are at least as likely as boys to be cyber bullies or their victims
• Boys are more likely to be threatened by cyber bullies than girls
• Cyber bullying affects all races
• Cyber bullying victims are more likely to have low self esteem and to consider suicide
Average figures according to Bullying are that half of teens are bullied. The pattern of action was identical. There was a great outcry, a lot of talk, much cosmetic action, and no identifiable results.
Solution? What solution?
The public, as usual, has no defence. Much like malware, attacks are rampant, and not a damn thing has been done about creating any sort of live defence apart from turning it into an industry, a self-sustaining problem and fix that’s making billions for “security” firms.
Bullying and abuse could be fought using existing, in fact quite old, software. I was stunned on one site when I used the Latin word “cum” to find that the text software wouldn’t publish it. That was about 7-8 years ago.
Now consider the low grade vocabularies of the average troll. They use text speak, are illiterate, and only know about 3 words. They could be blocked at source by the sites, and that’s not happening. (You may need to add a new word or two every decade if they find one, but that’s about it.)
A layered defence makes more sense than rhetoric ever has. Who needs trolls? What use are they? Why should people be expected to put up with behaviour which would be actionable in any other medium?
As a matter of fact, a class action might get results where the pretense of sanity obviously hasn’t. A group of parents, for example, suing for trauma to their kids would be quite justifiable and make a very interesting legal precedent.
Twitter and YouTube should be the testing grounds. The sheer ugliness of the YT abuse deserves it, and Twitter’s sainthood is questionable at best. Let’s see if dollars say more than trolls.