When it comes to trolls, you and Zuck have responsibility
It is not Julia Gillard’s job to solve trolling. Nor is it Nicola Roxon’s, nor Barry O’Farrell or any other government entity. But sites like Twitter and Facebook need to react more quickly when users are bullied.
It’s pretty contradictory that a time when we are concerned about government encroaching into the online space, that we are also demanding they solve this so-called “trolling problem” overnight.
Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah has demanded Julia Gillard enforce tougher laws for online bullying after receiving an offensive tweet about his mum.
The tweet and the account are already gone. Presumably the user was reported by Farah and his followers and Twitter shut down the account, or the troll shut it down.
Either way, it was the right result. But I’d be lying if I said I think it happens enough. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are slow to react to trolling.
Twitter in particular has a policy of “non mediation” when it comes to controlling user interaction, though it does have a “block/report” function. But often it can take days or weeks for action to be taken against a user, mainly because of the sheer size of the social network.
Twitter has also spent millions of dollars and man-hours in court fighting against requests from governments to hand over user information. This should be cause for comfort, not grief.
Rather than throwing our hands up and demand Julia Gillard fix this “online problem”, (if it is really a problem), we should require social networks to respond quicker to online threats.
It is confusing for users to find themselves locked out of their account a fortnight after the offence was committed because in their minds the statute of limitations would have already past.
If we expect to curb the way people behave online, cyber-bullies need to be put in the naughty corner of the internet straight away every time.
Here’s my list of suggestions for what social networks can do to address cyber-bullying:
- Enforce a 24-hour ban for users who are blocked or reported: The length of time the ban lasts for should depend on the severity of the offence, and the number of times they have been reported. If nothing else, it would give the user time to cool off and think about their actions
- Blocked users should be banned from setting up new accounts: This would prevent repeat offences for people who think they can sneak under the radar and continue their reign of horror under a different username. No, it won’t be 100 per cent effective. Yes, there are ways around it. Software that blocks your IP address, or VPNs which encrypt your connection could help people get around it, but I’d argue the majority of the population wouldn’t bother so for the most part, these punishments would help to maintain a better decorum online.
- Reward users with moderating rights: One of the most successful and popular tech sites, Slashdot, is almost 100 per cent moderated by its users. People that contribute regularly and positively to the site are rewarded with the opportunity to moderate a certain number of comments a week. Because the number of comments they have to moderate are limited, users must exercise their best judgement if they expect to receive more moderating rights in the future. Twitter and Facebook should be rewarding people for reporting real cyber bullies and creating a real moderating rewards system. It would also help to cut down the long wait times for offending pages to be taken down.
It should not be the government’s job to act like Big Brother. Better social networks start practicing better social engineering policies than more government oversight into our online lives.
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