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Tuesday 21st October 2014
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Why Are Twitter Trolls So Abusive?

Posted by Emma Barnett on July 29, 2013 at 08:30AM

I got two genuine trolls to call in as we discussed the woman's rights campaigner who has been subjected to a barrage of violent online abuse.

Well, well, well – last night’s show was on absolute fire! Not only did I have on Caroline Criado-Perez, the women’s rights campaigner, who has been subjected to a horrendous barrage of violent online abuse during the last 72 hours, but I also managed to attract two genuine trolls to call in – AKA people who think it’s ok to send rape threats online. These callers – Pete and Gary – proved that trolls do exist and aren’t a figment of our digital imagination. And their unfathomable views sent all of my listeners, tweeters, texters and emailers into overdrive.

On average I block and report between 10-15 people on Twitter each week for being abusive. Since finishing the show last night, I have already blocked and reported seven tweeters (and counting) for threatening and insulting me using words I cannot repeat on a family-friendly website.

Blocking and reporting online abusers has become a normal rite of digital passage for me and thousands of others – mainly women. But it shouldn’t have to be like this. We have the right to freedom of speech – but we don’t have the right to freely abuse.

Criado-Perez was receiving 50 of these types of threats for two days straight and thankfully now the police are starting to take some action.

First troll up was Peter from Whitechapel - who called the show to tell me she had been “asking for it”, by campaigning on high profile issues – such as her successful campaign to keep a woman on English banknotes.

While Gary calmly informed me that “men are predators” and it was OK for women to receive rape threats online as “they didn’t mean it” and “rape was a metaphor”. When I asked him how he would feel if his mother received 50 rape threats an hour – he refused to answer the question. Funny that.

These trolls do exist and hearing them voice their abuse and warped views of women, rather than typing them, was very powerful and upsetting radio indeed.

I am happy to report that many more brilliant men tweeted and rang in to condemn these two Neanderthals.

These people are a minority and the police with social media operators need to be a better job at punishing those who properly break the law.

However, the internet has given them disproportionately loud voices and open platforms to silence others using bullyboy tactics which would never wash offline.

Last night I felt like I shone a torch on the underside of the internet and felt a bit sick at what I found lurking there.

The sad thing is – it ain’t getting better anytime soon – but at least we are talking about it so people don’t have to suffer in silence.

Here’s the link to the campaign calling for Twitter to improve its reporting mechanism and here’s the podcast of my interview with Criado-Perez if you missed it.

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