Radio interview: trolls and Twitter

This morning I spoke on Adelaide radio station 5AA about Twitter trolls, following the Charlotte Dawson incident which has become somewhat of a case study of what can go wrong on Twitter.

5AA segment on trolls
5AA segment on trolls

One of the ideas I raised was that adults need social media training – not just children! Too often we assume adults know how to handle themselves online and understand the best way to deal with negativity on social networks. That’s not true.

There are a lot of resources online to give you ideas and to help you report abusive or threatening behaviour, including Twitter’s tips on reporting abusive behaviour and Facebook’s safety centre. You may also be interested in Facebook’s ‘safety philosophy’ which points out that this is “an ongoing conversation”. I think Facebook does that, in part, because we are still working out “the rules” and what part social networks play in online bullying versus the part that individuals play. No doubt the other factor for social networks themselves is resourcing – they simply don’t have the resources to monitor, assess, judge and report inappropriate activity.  But that’s a topic for another post …

Twitter itself suggests the following when dealing with abusive tweets:

Block and ignore
When you receive unwanted communication from another Twitter user, it is recommend [sic] that you block the user and end any communication. Specifically this will prevent that person from following or replying to you. Abusive users often lose interest once they realize that you will not respond. 

You can listen to my  discussion with Mike Smithson and Jane Doyle on the 5AA website now. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

15 Comments Add yours

  1. Gary Lum says:

    I agree block and ignore

  2. robynverrall says:

    I have had to block on twitter, everyone is entitled to their opinion but it doesn’t mean we have to agree or put up with those who wish to cause grief by words

    1. Prakky says:

      That’s one handy aspect of social media, Robyn: we get to filter our content!

  3. Colin Long says:

    When faced with negativity, sometimes I bite back, firmly believing in the right of reply. But then it usually escalates – the troll believing in the right of ‘re-reply’. If someone’s nasty and being a Smart Alec (and often they’re actually quite thick!) although I’d prefer to have the final say, I try to lean on the side of commonsense, and just leave them hanging and anticipating what I *might* say. Once I get past the initial indignance that someone has been unnecessarily nasty on my own Twitter/FB account, there’s comfort in that I’ve stopped feeding them ammunition. They have no choice then, but to move on. I’m all for a witty, intelligent crack back at trolls, but you need to know when to stop and just let it all go. You need to remove the emotion from the situation, and default to the ‘delete/block/report’ action.

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks Colin. Yes, it’s very tempting to engage, to defend yourself, or to simply call someone an idiot. But I find that’s best done under one’s breath and, as you say, not online where you can feed them further ammunition and encouragement.

  4. It’s easy to shoot off an angry tweet. It’s always best to take a deep breath and think about how you’d feel if on the receiving end of the tweet that you are writing.

    I rarely get trolled on Twitter. The most common problem I experience on Twitter is receiving DMs from a follower who has had their account hacked. I don’t think it’s fair to block and report those people as it is often not their fault. Instead, I write to them telling them that their account has been hacked and that their account is spamming their followers.

    This is a good example of how blocking is not an ideal response to improper behaviour on Twitter.

    1. Prakky says:

      Good point, Vintuitive. I don’t report people who have accidentally spammed me, either. I do prefer to let them know.

  5. Jen says:

    I think you raised a good point about social media training for adults as well as children. And thinking before you tweet is also a good idea. It’s so easy to tweet in the heat of the moment.

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks Jen – though having said that, I’m sure there are people who can “never be trained”. 🙂

  6. Ric says:

    A new line of business, perhaps, Michelle? I occasionally forget others don’t have the same experience as others with Twitter – I often see/hear complaints about banal and trivial content, as well as the more unpleasant stuff, when Twitter in particular gives us considerable control over what we see. If you don’t like it; block. If it’s particularly bad, report as well; rinse and repeat until your timeline suits you.

    1. Prakky says:

      Yes, Ric, in my world I come across many who are still not across social media at all. They’re often brought to it because of a need to, professionally, but have had little personal experience with Twitter or Facebook themselves.

      That’s one of my difficulties with my online persona/sharing: while my network is partially made up of socmedia enthusiasts and those who are extremely savvy early adopters – another part of my network is those clients and potential clients who are looking for 101 advice and gentle introductions to this world.

  7. I recently had an experience that opened my eyes personally to this. Nothing like the Charlotte Dawson incident and I think the taunts while personal were mainly in jest. It was a response to something as benign as taking over a mayorship on 4 square. Over a couple of days I received messages from the original mayor and one of his friends, they weren’t anonymous and not particularly nasty. What was surprising and a bit dis-concerning is that they had bothered to look up my various social profiles to get ammunition to use for their taunts.

    They are probably harmless individuals but I couldn’t be sure. If I had escalated it by replying I didn’t know what lengths they might go to, from involving all their friends in the attack to something worse. The eye opening part for me was that if you do happen to get on the wrong side of the wrong person our social and online presences can give away everything from where you work to where you get your lattes, it’s not a big step from there to get your phone number or even where you live.

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks for your comment, Ian. That’s very interesting and does serve to illustrate that seemingly innocuous behaviour online can still gain you some attention you didn’t expect. Will it change how you use Foursquare?

      1. I don’t think it will change my use of foursquare or other social networks for that matter but it does make me more mindful of my online presence as a whole. The information on one social network such as foursquare when combined with twitter, linkedin, facebook and some creative googling can divulge more than I had previously considered.

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