A licence to tweet

A licence to tweet

Summary: Insisting on a licence to get online might not stop offensive tweeting, but it might help authorities track genuine evil-doers. But could it ever really work?

TOPICS: Government

Former Australian model Charlotte Dawson was hospitalised recently because of a relentless attack against her on Twitter. Then there was NRL player Robbie Farah, who received an unkind tweet about his late mother. Farah, it seems, is no stranger to offensive tweeting, having previously suggested that the prime minister get a noose for her birthday.

Offensive tweets, all of a sudden, have become newsworthy, chewing up time on commercial TV news and talkback radio. It's now deemed as being such a big issue that Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper has launched a "Stop the Trolls" campaign. I know it's a big issue, because yesterday Stephen Conroy's office issued a press release saying that the communications minister and attorney-general are in full support of the campaign. The Daily Telegraph and the Labor government rarely agree on anything, but they're united on this issue.

Is it a coincidence that this support comes at a time when the government is running an inquiry into changes to national security legislation? The proposal is to give authorities access to a broader range of data stored by telecommunications companies. The intent is to fight terrorism and serious crime, but could it also be used to hunt out Twitter trolls?

One of the submissions to the government inquiry came from Brunel University. Andrew Brunatti wrote about the need for a National Digital Identification (NDI) regime. The argument is that as people use multiple devices, it becomes impossible to track suspects online — the digital identity deficit. Under his proposal, any device, email address, or social media account would be linked to the NDI. It sounds a little far-fetched, but Andrew Brunatti suggests on this week's Twisted Wire that it has to happen sometime.

What do you think? Should anonymity online be protected at all costs, or is there a need for more control? Call the Twisted Wire feedback line on 02 9304 5198 and leave a message.

Running time: 26 minutes, 57 seconds

Topic: Government


Phil Dobbie has a wealth of radio and business experience. He started his career in commercial radio in the UK and, since coming to Australia in 1991, has held senior marketing and management roles with Telstra, OzEmail, the British Tourist Authority and other telecommunications, media, travel and advertising businesses.

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  • Maybe Just Filter Tweets To Celebrities

    They could, say, hire secretaries to pre-screen everything before forwrarding it to them. Maybe even write a few tweets themselves, if there aren’t enough real fans doing it.

    Then the rest of us can get back to living our normal, ordinary lives.
  • cloud

    it needs to be shut down for good
  • Regulation won't work - ho0w about reputation

    It strikes me that getting regulation to deal with this won't work. If I have someone offending me on Twitter from some other country it doesn't help me if I know his name is Fred Smith, even if that is true. Unless he is doing something that law enforcement can chase him, I'm equally powerless.

    Similarly, getting global buy-in to regulation isn't going to happen in any meaningful time-frame to anyone except a geologist.

    So, how about a much simpler self regulation system - reputation scores, akin to Ebay. Everyone gets a score. If you get a complaint against you for having said something abusive, then the person abused gets to record a complaint against you. You have a public score against your twitter account that shows how many complaints you have. Maybe your avatar descends into more troll-like shape the more complaints posted about abuse. Skype appears to work with this idea internally when you can block a particular person, or if they went further you can 'record abuse'. They don't make it clear what happens, but there is some internal policy (subject for a future show of journalistic investigation maybe Phil?)

    So, then when you post, people can then review what you say against your reputation. If you are seen on record to be a troll then people will just discount you.

    The government involvement if government involvement there must be, would be that they could provide funding to the company (hah - a tithe) to staff an office to review the complaints simply to make sure the whole process is not being abused. You could fund an Australian officer to review those who are registered from Australia who are getting complaints about them and determine if they are warranted. They could have some controls to adjust these scores if the complaints were deemed to be inappropriate (say automated abuse and so forth).