Digital hate: Just like normal hate, but in your pocket
Can I begin with a sweeping statement? The internet is a weird place.
Allow me to expand upon that thought. I live a lot of my life online. I like it a lot and enjoy the company of my followers. No matter where in the world I am, in what time zone, I’ll always have someone to chat to. I learn a lot from those I follow. For the most part, it’s bloody brilliant.
For the other part, however, it’s a head-wrecking, upsetting place and a source of great frustration.
This week, right-wing writer and notorious ‘troll’ Milo Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter for his role as ringleader in a hate campaign against the actress Leslie Jones.
The tweets being sent to and about Leslie Jones were horrific. These were messages sent by human beings to another human.
What’s worse is when you think about Jones’s family or friends reading them. Imagine how humiliating and degrading that must feel.
I leave Twitter tonight with tears and a very sad heart.All this cause I did a movie.You can hate the movie but the shit I got today...wrong— Leslie Jones (@Lesdoggg) July 19, 2016
Yiannopoulos - who went by the Twitter handle @nero, describes himself as 'the most fabulous super-villain on the internet' and is the tech editor for conservative news outlet Breitbart.
While it’s great that Twitter took action against this ‘super-villain’, it feels like a minor victory when compared to what Jones was subjected to.
The final act of blocking only occurred after #BanNero was tweeted by a host of famous faces. It’s just too little, too late.
Without wanting to suppress anyone’s right to freedom of speech, I believe there should be a better blocking / reporting policy in place. This is difficult to implement and police because abuse is somewhat objective. What offends me could read as a funny quip to someone else. We can’t have a nanny-state culture online, but we need to act faster when someone is subjected to hate.
Online abuse is different to traditional bullying in the sense that it comes home with you in the evening, is in bed with you in the morning and walks with you on the morning commute. Receiving abuse on a digital platform means there’s no refuge. This can be incredibly damaging.
As someone who has been subjected to a persistent stream of hate on a small scale, which ran for about six weeks, I can't imagine how Jones must feel right now.
The notion of "if you put yourself out there, you're leaving yourself open to hate" is utter bullshit. Someone can dislike what you do and express that, but as soon as things get personal, it's gone too far. All too often we see sexism, racism, homophobia and general stupidity spouted from idiots online.
Only last week someone online thought it was ok to slag me off on Twitter, in a personal and nasty way. I did what I had been told to do many times before and hit 'block'. The issue I have with the block button is that it doesn't really achieve anything. That person can still go off and say whatever they want about me. I've reported a few people too, but I don't know what happens when I do that.
Maybe this is something that will evolve as time goes by. Perhaps we'll get better at policing the internet and everyone will understand that it's not ok to attack another person, regardless of their level of fame or success.
In the interim, however, can we all just utilise a bit of cop on?