Twitter slammed over racist, homophobic and anti semitic abuse

Summary:Twitter has promised to do more to stop this abuse, but there does not seem to be much evidence of this according to a high profile victim of death threats towards him on Twitter.

Twitter is under fire today for not acting quickly enough in removing accounts containing racist, homophobic and anti semitic abuse towards high profile Twitter users.

stan-collymore
Image: BBC

The ex England soccer player and broadcaster Stan Collymore is one high profile victim of abuse. UK police are investigating a series of offensive messages sent to him on Twitter .

He has been using Twitter for six years but two years ago he received the "most filthy racist abuse" from Twitter users.

UK police were quickly able to find out who the abusers were and match their profiles with Facebook accounts.

Two arrests were subsequently made. Both people arrested were law students, one was the captain of his University football team.

One abuser was sentenced to 56 days in prison and one was given 200 hours community service. However Twitter has not "done anything about it" according to Collymore who says that the accounts are still live on Twitter.

Twitter said that it can not comment on individual accounts but said that when you sign up to twitter you agree not to threaten people using the service.

It says that it takes action against targeted abuse when it is reported to them - however Collymore insists that racist abuse has “stayed on people’s timelines for months”.

In the UK Isabella Sorley and John Nimmo are awaiting sentencing after sending abusive tweets to Caroline Criado-Perez over her campaign to get a woman's face onto a ten pound note.

Collymore tries to be "open and honest" when he broadcasts. He engages with football fans and says that it is "a partisan and passionate sport".

Within the laws of the UK people are welcome to bring up the footballer’s past factually, "good, bad or indifferent". Collymore says that he has “no problems” with this happening. That is, according to Collymore, "genuine use of freedom of speech".

However, freedom of speech does not, he believe, extend to threatening and abusive messages sent to him on Twitter.

“If someone abused you in the street, they would be arrested. If someone threatened to kill you, you could go to the police and the police would do something about it” he said.

Six weeks ago the footballer made a complaint to Twitter over 15 to 20 tweets that "were racist and threatening in nature".

Over the last two or three days he has received threats to kill, threats to murder, threats to turn up at his door to kill him and many other examples of abuse. He has not yet received a response from Twitter.

The UK police take this abuse very seriously across many forces but Collymore says that Twitter "appears to be stonewalling" over this issue.

Users need to make a request to Twitter to complain about abuse such as this so that Twitter can investigate peoples profiles.  Six weeks later Collymore says he has heard nothing.

He says that there are accounts with "the most filthy, sexist, anti semitic, racist abuse" and that twitter is not deleting the accounts even after they have been reported. This is unacceptable he said.

CNN Tonight host Piers Morgan has also taken to Twitter to defend Stan Collymore, asking: “Can someone at @TwitterUK or @Twitter explain why @PhilippLad has not been suspended yet? Surely you don't condone racism & death threats?”

We should be able to live our social media lives the way we live our offline lives.

People are becoming bolder online believing that they can remain anonymous. They set up a new account, use it to racially abuse somebody, delete the account and start again.

Perhaps Twitter should begin to add proper age verification to the account creation process and take a serious look at how it handles complaints.

The demographic on Twitter has become much younger due to celebrities such as Justin Bieber and bands such as One Direction having a presence on the site. There is a much younger audience interacting on Twitter.

Collymore is seeing increasing amounts of racist abuse from ten to 18 year olds who in some cases need "protecting from themselves". He notes that “It is easy for a 12 year old to create a Twitter account and tweet abuse”.

Is Twitter "looking at the dollars rather than its social responsibility"

Broadcaster and newspapers have to work within laws concerning what they are allowed to publish and broadcast. Collymore says that "The UK government needs to bring Twitter and other social media platforms in line with what broadcasters and publishers do"

Collymore believes that Twitter is "hiding behind the fact that it is an American company". Only a few of months after Twitters IPO he wonders whether Twitter is now "monetised by the amount of users" it has.

He also asks whether Twitter would rather encourage more users to sign up for accounts instead of it “spending money on algorithms and scripts to verify real users”.

Is Twitter doing "nothing at all to protect users, who want to use the service correctly and fairly, from racist, homophobic and anti Semitic abuse". Or is it totally out of its depth handling its growth in users and the processes it has in place to report abuse?

Perhaps its priorities need to change so it can continue to attract — and protect — the high profile celebrities it covets so much.

Topics: Social Enterprise, Legal

About

Eileen Brown is a social business consultant who has been working with collaborative technologies for 20 years. Eileen creates the social business, energises communities and ignites social commerce and social CRM. She develops social business strategy, customer reach and online branding. Her book, Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketi... Full Bio

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