Dear Twitter

I love you.  Really I do.   I have loved you for a long time so I hope you don’t mind me approaching you in this way.

I have a problem with you.

And it is a serious one and I know I am not alone so I am going to cut straight to the chase.

You need to sort our your Terms and Conditions of use and make it clearer that messages of any kind of hatred will not be tolerated.    Right now, it is a grey area and it needs sorting so that it sends a clear message to all your users.

The papers are full this morning of the Tweets send to a young Mr Daley, he of the diving fame, from one of your users.  I won’t repeat his name, let’s just call him The Spanner.    It is not the first time we have come across him in this family ( I mean the tweeter in question, not Tom Daley.  The fact my youngest will one day marry Tom and that I spend too long staring at him is not for this forum).

My son, J, is quite big on Twitter and has a follower count I can only envy.  As do many of his online friends.   One of his Twitter buddies, a chap called Ollie,  had been on the receiving end of vile and hateful Tweets from The Spanner some months ago.    Tweets that, shall we say, I cannot repeat here.   They explained in detail the things The Spanner was going to do Ollie’s sister.  A precious sister who had died some time before.

Can you imagine reading that?  I did at the time and it was shocking.

A furore broke out and my son and some of his other friends, with a collective following of over half a million (all teenagers let’s remember) approached you and asked you to ban said vile Tweeter.    They asked all their followers to report The Spanner to you and ask he be banned.    They duly did.   They complained in their thousands.

What were they told?

No, what this person had said did not violate your terms of use.

Did not violate your terms of use.

I was disgusted.  As were all of them.  The Spanner was left alone by you and allowed to continue sending abusive messages to all and sundry.

The Spanner, whilst all this was going on last night was also sending death threats to other Tweeters.   Threats to stab, kill, maim.   It was relentless

I tried to get somebody banned a couple of weeks ago.  Somebody who was Tweeting such bile as “if you don’t love Justin Bieber you need to get cancer and die”.   Anybody who stepped in to dispute this statement was also told they should get cancer and die.

We all know somebody who has died from cancer.  Maybe we know somebody who is being treated for it.  How must it feel to be on the receiving end of something that spiteful?  In the name of Justin sodding Beiber for heaven’s sake.

It is easy to claim “but they are just kids, they don’t mean it”.   This is not true and it is certainly no defence.

The lowlife involved in this latest incident is seventeen.    At seventeen he knew exactly what he was doing when he Tweeted “you didnt make your dad proud”.   He knew that would cut right to Tom Daley’s core.    To later claim he had no idea about Tom’s dad’s death is a nonsense.   Why would you say something like that otherwise?

Had you blocked and removed this person from Twitter and had a clear policy of alerting police authorities to his actions some months ago none of this would have happened.

So why did you block him last night, then unblock him?  And why over this but not before?

Why are you so vague about this Policy?

I know you cannot be held responsible for how your users use your site  but you need to update your Terms of Use and send a clear message to everybody that any message of this type is not tolerated.

We have a law in the UK:

Malicious Communications Act 1998/Telecommunications Act 1984 – it is an offence to send an indecent, offensive or threatening letter, electronic communication or other article to another person.  Under section 43 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 it is a similar offence to send a telephone message which is indecent, offensive or threatening

So why do you allow this behaviour?

Sort it or I might just have to go back to Facebook, and we wouldn’t want that.

 

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  • Well said! I echo every sentiment in this post. I love twitter, but they need to sort it out!

  • And so say all of us!

    I wonder if, under the laws you quote, it is an offence to facilitate the commission of an offence by Spanner through providing the channels which were used? Might be worth asking a solicitor who I am sure would respond on a “pro bono” basis.

    • A very good point and one that would an interesting one to see defended in court.

      “so you aided this persistent abuse to continue even after you had been alerted to its existence? Could you please tell the court on what grounds?”

  • So basically he’s been doing this for ages but only got stopped because he tweeted someone famous.

    Great post but sad insight in to teenage online bullying.

    • sadly, yes. And whilst what he said to Tom Daley was indefensible it was nothing compared to what preceded it to others and continued after. Including going to threaten to drown Tom Daley.

  • Very stirring post. I’d had mixed feelings about this issue – not about the vileness of the culprit, but about police involvement in an offensive, but not threatening remark – but I had no idea he was a serial offender and your point about Twitter taking a stand is incontestable.