Twitter slammed over racist, homophobic and anti semitic abuse

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.

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

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  • Abuse on Twitter:Racist/Homophobic/Anti Semitic

    Every day I see countless racist comments being tossed around like its nothing..Recently on MLK day I was subjected to numerous ignorant comments..I conscientiously seek out these individuals to expose their hate. One account @yesyoureracist points out these individuals. One by one these jerks need to be put in there place.
    • racist comments cannot be tolerated

      I believe strongly that social networks like facebook, twitter, etc. should moderate effectively the comments and opinions received from users, or the newspapers who receive comments from readers. In my country, France, we see a rise of racist, homophobic, anti-moslem or anti-jew expressions on the internet. This trend seems to be helped by the anonymity ; but the social networks, newspapers and all other websites know the name and the mailbox of any person making comments, and they should deny publication of such comments or eliminate them. Moderation is not yet a priority for many of them, but it should be compulsory, thru law or selfregulation, to have moderators doing the job whenever necessary. Of course, critics are welcome, and freedom of expression is to be encouraged, but personal attacks and insults against people because of their origin, religion, sexual orientation, should never be accepted by any website.
    • the question is

      Do you make a third party responsible? Twitter is not the abuser nor the police nor a judge tasked with working out disputes. Twitter should have a blocking mechanism available to users. However, it seems to me that people always want someone else to be responsible instead.
      Don't get me wrong, if someone was abusing me I'd want a way to stop it.
  • How about illegal activity like people selling/buying foodstamps on twitter

    search ebt or foodstamps, then be ready to be disgusted.
  • Using Twitter

    The best thing to do is not use Twitter. While there might be some redeeming factors (though I can't think of any), most of what I have seen is racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic and worse. It is used mainly by self absorbed people. The fact that Justin Bieber uses it is reason enough to avoid it in its totally.
  • Twitter is big in US politics now.

    If they block racist and homophobic contents in tweets, the Republican celebrities like Rush, Ted Nugent, Sarah, etc. will start their own (anti)social network.
    • Mindless bigotry is a left-wing trait

      Your comment is both ignorant and bigoted. The people you mention have NEVER made a racist or homophobic remark (at least in public). Unfortunately, their critics (including yourself) display their very characteristics they falsely attribute to others.
      • Talk about ignorance

        Your comment is ignorant and bigoted yourself. I can site countless examples were these people have made such remarks. Especially Rush who is the king of racist comments. If you make such a statement you are either ignorant or just choose not to admit the truth. Its best to do a little fact checking before making such a statement. It would save youreself a lot of embarrassment.
        • Examples

          It might've been more effective to provide specific examples than to make general statements.
          • the uniformed voters that they are don't need examples

            they just believe anything and besides they are no examples.

            Just like when some liberal calls somebody a teabagger and other slurs, ask them what TEA stands for and they always don't even know.
          • Defininition of TEA...

            "TEA" is something you drink, or use for medicinal purposes. TEA Party is a bunch of Conservative extremists who can't get along with Democrats OR Republicans! In other words - people who can't work with the Government of the United States... or the people!!!
    • Go away

      Here's an idea: let's block political comments on ZDNet. Go seek pats on the head from liberal cow herders on Kos or Huffpo. The ideological wars here are supposed to be about Microsoft, Apple, and Google.
      Robert Hahn
  • Twitter is for twits

    • Twitter is for twits

      And birdbrains! Most respondents unwittingly confirm the truth of the theory that the human genome is deteriorating by about 100 mutations every generation (genetic entropy)
  • Abuse on Twitter

    "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Just a quick reminder for those of you who may have forgotten. Death threats aside, if you can't handle people saying not so nice things about you then don't put yourself in a position where people can say not so nice things about you. You can call me every name in the book and although it may "offend" me I will fight to the death for your right to say it. With that said, Twitter has the right to do what they want with their service. If you don't like it, don't use it.
    • Confusion between rights and responsibilities

      Free speech, as defined and envisioned by those who wrote the Constitution, does NOT include abusive, obscene and bigoted speech. You can call me every name in the book, as long as you are willing to accept the repercussions when we meet face-to-face.
      • Oh yes it does!

        The U.S. Constitution's 1st amendment protects ALL speech, as long as it is not a physical threat, either direct or indirect (the Supreme Court described that as "yelling FIRE! in a crowded theater").

        So, we may not like or agree with people who take abhorrent racial, religious, political or cultural positions, the 1st Amendment protects their right to speak out on their own beliefs.

        That is liberty at its most basic. If some believe Twitter should be responsible for what passes through their servers, then they are free to speak up about that, to propose an alternative, to suggest a boycott, to petition, etc.
      • Free Speech

        I'm not sure where you got the idea that the Constitution doesn't protect virtually all forms of speech, even the most vile, but you're mistaken.

        There are some special exceptions (e.g., libel, slander, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater), but the exceptions are few and far between.

        That's what the word "freedom" in "freedom of speech" means. If we could only speak in ways that never offended anyone, we'd never be able to speak at all--and we certainly wouldn't have freedom.
      • Creepy....

        It is downright spooky that some people in America are trying to rewrite the 1st Amendment in order to ban speech they choose to define as "offensive." And it's the PC lefty crowd - y'know, the "tolerant" ones - who are so fascistic and oppressive in their goals and rhetoric.
    • Whose first amendment?

      Much as I'm a fan of the 1st amendment, this isn't such an issue. The Constitution and Bill of Rights only apply to the U.S. This article is mostly about Twitter in the UK. Although the UK has "freedom of speech", it's not enshrined in its (non-existent) constitution. Applying US laws (which themselves apply to the actions of the U.S. government) to a company operating (in this case) outside of the U.S. seems misguided to me.

      On the other hand, Twitter is free to establish Terms & Conditions that its users must adhere too, and presumably it does. What it doesn't seem to be doing is policing its own rules very effectively. If people start to turn away from it in droves because of the hateful content found there, I'm sure that will focus Twitter's mind on cleaning up its act.