Words: Philip Cummins
The ongoing issue of threatening, abusive and aggressive behavior online may have just reached its tipping point.
This week, in the UK, Labour MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez both turned up the heat on the debate on Newsnight, going into detail about the levels of harassment and threats of rape that they have received from users of the ever-popular social media platform.
The latest victim of online abuse is, bizarrely, Nate Erikson (@nately), the social editor of GQ magazine, the U.S. edition, over an interview with One Direction that appeared in the British edition of the magazine. The same issue of GQ has five different covers, all featuring the individual members, with the cover line for the Harry Style's version of the cover noting "Harry's up all night to get lucky", a wry nod to Harry Styles' reputation as a ladies' man. Numerous One Direction fans let @nately know just what they think of him, most of which is unspeakably vile.
The abuse has come, largely, from teenage fans of the band and the abuse has been nothing short of vulgar and, in some cases, genuinely disturbing. What's more, there is now a generation growing up with social media who think that trolling and sending such abuse such as that aimed at Nate Erikson is normal and acceptable.
Twitter has, to be fair, been quite slow in combatting an issue that has continued to dog both social media and the Internet, in general. A Commons Select Committee is to be set up, to quiz Twitter chiefs as to why they have failed to act when women have been threated with rape.
The central problem, however, is that it is still unclear as to why it is that people - teenagers, in this instance - feel the need to vent such anger, such aggression at people they don't even know. Where does all this anger and aggression come from? Just look at the comments section of just about any YouTube video: you'll always find two or three users slinging muck at each other.
So where to from here? Well, civil legislation - slander, libel, defamation - has been slow to adjust to the Internet. Furthermore, securing prosecutions against anonymous users isn't as easy as it sounds.
If you have any stories or have been the victim of trolls, please share here.
@NATELY do you know what has happened to other people Who has messed with our fandom
— ï½“ï½ÂÂ?ï½–ï½ÂÂ?ï½Å½ï½Å½ï½ÂÂ?ï½ˆ (@_weyheynugget_) July 30, 2013
@NATELY you messed with the wrong fandom, asshole.
— âÂ?Follow me Eleanor?âÂ? (@roguelinson) July 30, 2013
@NATELY Fuck you and your magazine get a proper job you dick
— â™¡Limitâ™¡ (@amenstyles_) July 30, 2013