01 August, 2012

Olympians, Women and Internet Trolls

*WARNING WARNING WARNING* Angry McRantyPants post ahead.

Important lesson: Don't insult an Olympic diver on Twitter. You'll end up on the news and get arrested.

funny facebook fails - ROFLympics 2012: People are Horrible

Yes, after that charming exchange above (which is pretty tame by troll standards, even though it is still abhorrent), that teenager found himself arrested.

Good? Yes. About time? Sure. Make threats on the internet, and you should be prepared to face the consequences. (Let's overlook the fact that there doesn't appear to be much of a threat made in those tweets though, okay?)

How many women (or indeed other men) have been abused and threatened over the internet? I'd hazard a guess and say millions. How many of those have had actual threats of violence and death made against them, simply because they exist? Too many.

Kathy Sierra stopped blogging, tweeting and doing public speaking events because of threats of violence against her. This New Statesman article outlines the experiences of several female bloggers, not all of a unanimous opinion, but all sharing in common the threats of death, rape and violence against them. One that struck me the most was Dawn Foster's account:

The emails rarely mentioned the topic at hand: instead they focussed on my age, used phrases like "little girl", described rape fantasies involving me and called me "ugly" and "disgusting". Initially it was shocking: in the space of a week, I received a rabid email that included my home address, phone number and workplace address, included as a kind of threat. Then, after tweeting that I'd been waiting for a night bus for ages, someone replied that they hoped I'd get raped at the bus stop.

Slightly more explicitly threatening than "your just a diver anyway a over hyped prick", right? It's certainly the kind of threat that I would hope the police would take note of, and possibly even make arrests over if it was made towards me.

But then, I guess the countless bloggers, columnists and journalists who get threatened in this sort of way aren't a famous diver whose father died recently. Who also has a massive following on Twitter.

Will this latest troll arrest make a dent in the threats posted by trolls on the internet? We can only hope so. Somehow though, I don't think it's going to make much difference to many out there who continue to get abuse over the net. What do you think?

The full content of the article referred to in my reference to Kathy Sierra above can be found here.
Another good article for anyone interested in reading further about this topic is located at The Guardian.

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