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Friday, 17 April 2015

WEB 2.0 Failing to tackle Twitter trolls? Report on football racist tweets

Can the web be effectively regulated? The case of the tweeter jailed for racist comments aimed at footballer Fabrice Muamba became a famous case which seemed to suggest that, yes, the wild wild web was tameable, and Lord MacAlpine's successful legal pursuit of the 100s who incorrectly named him as a paedophile on Twitter seemed to reinforce that view.

How does this square with the report into football-related tweets that exposes tens of thousands of racist ('hate speech' in legal terms) tweets against individual footballers such as Mario Balotelli? David Conn, quoted below, notes the difficulty in UK police taking action when US-hosted sites such as twitter refuse to co-operate, and US courts also refuse to assist:

Police, experts and the internet companies themselves, when discussing their efforts to tackle all of this, can seem understandably overwhelmed by the scale of the job and the newness of the phenomenon. The figures of more than 134,000 abusive messages, possibly amounting to hate crimes, thrown in relation to the English Premier League, 8,000 to Balotelli alone, are deeply shocking, but still, mercifully, just a pond in the ocean of decent, funny, entertaining interaction which is transforming human communication.
Police powers are hampered by the anonymity of the internet, and the fact that Twitter, Facebook and Google are hosted in the US, where the supreme court will not grant subpoenas to identify a lone internet poster of racism in some corner of England. The abuse itself can be coming from all over the world, in which case the British police have no jurisdiction anyway. Kick It Out complains that some of the police forces which it deals do not seem to understand social media hate crime, do not seem to act strongly enough and too seldom communicate properly.
The internet companies, seeking to facilitate and reunite friends and followers, have seemed taken aback by their platforms being used for hate, and been heavily criticised for being weak and slow to act. Following Twitter’s chief executive, Dick Costolo, saying the company “sucks at dealing with abuse and trolls” in February and promising to improve, the company now says it has strengthened its procedures and tripled the size of the team protecting users. It admits, however, “there is still more to be done, by us, and the industry as a whole”.

David Conn (Guardian, 2015): Social media cauldron of hate to players a sad reflection of modern life.

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