Opinion: The trolls haven't gone away, but technology is not to blame

Having had to deal with numerous trolls, I believe that human responsibility needs to be taken into account

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Image: Nick Ansell / PA Archive/PA Images

Not so long ago, trolling and cyberbullying were issues that made the front page of the national newspapers. Now, it's all about fake news and revenge porn. This week reminded me that the trolls are still active. With all of these issues, however, I believe that technology is not to blame. 

For some reason, the past week brought a bout of trolls my way. It hadn't happened in quite a while, but I was taken aback at how much it impacted me. I wasn't being trolled for any clear reason, as is often the case. Someone started having a go at me over one thing and then others joined in about other things. It was both silly and pointless. 

My initial reaction was to reply and refute what was being said about me. I did this in one case and instantly regretted it. It just stirred the pot even more. I opted to ignore the others but found myself sneakily checking my phone whilst making coffee to see what was being said about me. It's the strangest thing. 

I am an adult, who has dealt with this sort of stuff before and have advised others on how to deal with it. What was I at?

As I walked into work on Wednesday morning, something struck me. If these people weren't giving me crap online, they'd be doing it to someone else. If Twitter wasn't a thing, they'd be doing it another way. People who want to troll and bully will find a way of doing it. 

Tackling the trolls

I truly believe that the different social media platforms need to do more to police the content on their sites, but I also think that we cannot simply blame the technology and walk away. 

Unless there's some AI being used, for the most part, the awful things that are said and done online are carried out by human beings. It may or may not be deliberate, but people are to blame. 

Schoolchildren were being bullied long before SimSimi, Facebook, Bebo or MySpace. It happened on the playground or by passing notes in class. Technology is simply a new method for the bullies to carry out their nasty actions. 

Look at SimSimi, for example. This was an artificial intelligence app that became incredibly popular with school children in Ireland earlier this year. Within a matter of days, it was taken offline in this country because it was so heavily linked to cyberbullying. 

Parents were up in arms, calling from the app to be banished and asking 'who would make such a thing?!'

The reality of the situation is that SimSimi was nasty because it was being used by children that taught it nasty things. Every bad statement that came from that app was inputted by a human user at some stage. AI has so many incredible uses, but it was misused and abused in this instance. 

This may not be an overly PC thing to say, but the children were to blame for the SimSimi incident, not the technology.

Responsibility  

I am all for the social media giants being held accountable for what is being said and spread online, but I also think that personal responsibility has to come into the equation. 

I often tell my young relatives what is right and wrong. I tell them if someone is upsetting them to walk away. I tell them that not to say mean things to people. 

All of this basic advice applies to online, both children and adults. 

There are so many amazing opportunities and so much potential associated with technology. The fear is that this will all be tarred with a negative brush because of the actions of the few. 

If you see someone spreading hate or just being hateful, block and report. These are simple acts to remove that person from your online world and flags their behaviour with the social media moderators. What happens thereafter is out of our hands, but we need to step up to the mark and call out the online idiots.