For the majority of July, I spent my time travelling across America and happily blogging about my experiences, and was really happy with the positive responses I received. I returned home ready to continue with my writing in my aim to become a journalist in the future, and then was hit by a couple of horrifying stories: women writers have been threatened with bomb and rape threats over Twitter.
I am appalled and, quite frankly, disgusted. I knew that Twitter trolling had been a problem for well over a year now, looking back at the abuse diver Tom Daley received during the Olympics, however I never thought for a second that women, as a group, would be targeted.
Trolling can easily become widespread
The problem with online trolling is that it can easily become widespread when others see abuse go unchecked, so they also think they can get away with it. Basically, people are far more confident behind a computer screen, and that confidence can turn into arrogance. They think that if their message can blend into a group of many, they can both make a point and retain the upper hand.
I wanted to become a journalist because I feel that when things happen in the world, whether small, big, good, or bad, someone needs to be there to report on it, as the public has the right to know. I feel that I have the right kind of personality to do this as I can look at things objectively and I am quite thick-skinned. However, there is only a certain amount that a person can take, and when irritation towards journalists turns into abuse, a line has been overstepped.
Fortunately I have not been targeted with abuse via any social networking site, and although I have not been discouraged from the career, I have become increasingly aware that anyone can see what I post online. Writers will always be a target as usually they are not afraid to post their opinions in an article, and it is generally not a problem if someone wants to disagree with their opinions.
In fact, I like it when someone argues with my point, as it encourages debate, but threatening to actually rape someone on the basis of a differing opinion is not only shocking but ridiculous. Whatever happened to free expression?
They say things because they can get away with it
Firstly I would like women all over the country, and indeed the world, to show these people that they will not be deterred from expressing themselves and fighting for what they believe in. After all, realistically these people are not really going to be able to find and “rape and kill” you, and I can guarantee that almost none of them would dare to do anything like that in real life.
They only say abusive things because they think that they can get away with it, and also because they have nothing better to do with their lives. That’s the important thing for us to remember.
Twitter needs to crack down on trolls
Unless Twitter, together with the government, does something to crack down on these abusive trolls, I can’t see anything changing from the situation we have had over the past year. It is also something that needs to be taught in schools and tackled in society itself, as no person should ever think that cyber bullying (that’s exactly what Twitter trolling is) and threatening people is okay. Trolls need to be shown by example that they really can be punished for it, as internet anonymity these days is practically impossible.
This shouldn’t be something which we turn into a gender issue. After all, anyone can be abused over Twitter.
But my major concern is, if a particular group of people like women writers are being targeted already, who is going to be targeted next? Scarily, this is paving the way to racism or worse, and someone needs to step in. Twitter is huge influence in people’s daily lives and we have already seen how it helped gather support for the London riots. We need to turn it back into a positive, rather than negative, outlet of opinion for everyone.