Opinion: Taking on the Twitter trolls

Rape threats on Twitter targeting feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creasy this week resulted in the arrest of a young man and the introduction of a ‘report abuse’ button on every tweet.

articlet.jpgFor the Jewish community, such online intolerance is all too familiar.

Over the years the Jewish News has informed readers about notorious British sites run by far-right groups such as Stormfront and Combat 18 and countless hate groups on Facebook.

The newspaper has  urged the police to prosecute their authors and petitioned the government to pressure internet service providers to block users from accessing them.

This week, as the Caroline Criado-Perez/Stella Creasy story received blanket media coverage, some of the vilest anti-Semitism ever posted on Twitter targeted Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy.

He was besieged by abusive online “trolls” over rumours he is targeting a world-record transfer fee for the club’s star player, Gareth Bale. This week’s lowlights include: “Levy is as Jewish as **** with transfers” and “Jewish greedy b*****d”.

The internet is still a relatively new outlet for spreading intolerance – as reflected in Twitter’s initial reluctance to act on the rape threats. But laws are in place to prosecute perpetrators.

The Communications Act and Protection From Harassment Act outlaws conduct amounting to harassment and the sending of indecent and grossly offensive messages. And the Crown Prosecution Service has brought an internet race hate case against two men convicted of publishing anti-Semitic content online.

The global popularity of Twitter raises even bigger questions about monitoring not just the output of one person – or one small group – but virtual global communities that thrive among the site’s 500 million registered users.

Thankfully, Twitter is now finally reacting to this hornet’s nest in its midst which, left to flourish, rapidly turns into a Lord of the Flies environment with users free to insult and torment those around them.

Despite this welcome, if hopelessly belated action, yet another anti-social moron is no doubt tweeting anti-Semitic abuse to Daniel Levy as you read these words.

It is all our responsibilities to remain ever vigilant of the next online hornet’s nest just around the corner.

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