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I'm sure everyone has heard of the recent high profile instances of arrests following slightly offensive tweets directed at sports stars Tom Daley and Fabrice Muamba. In regards to one troll making homophobic remarks towards Tom Daley, the DPP has finally issued guidance over what constitutes an offence, which instructed that most remarks on social media would constitute 'free speech' - only where there is a deliberate threat of violence or an intention to incite violence should a person be prosecuted.
The problems seem to occur in interpretation of what consititutes actual hate speech and what is just trolling - and in actually 'policing' social media. At the moment, the only time people are being questioned by police is when they direct rude remarks at celebrities. I would argue that most of what is being said to celebrities is just children trying to attract attention, rather than genuine threatening behavior, whereas digging deeper into what people are discussing on Twitter outside of the spotlight actually reveals a far worse situation.
As an example, I present the Twitter feed on the hashtag #jewishmums, set up by Channel 4 for feedback over the tasteless 'Jewish Mum of the Year' program which aired for the first time on Tuesday October 9th.
Ignoring the irresponsibility of Channel 4 in commissioning a program which played to the worst stereotypes of Jewish women, encouraged tweeting over a hashtag and not monitoring said hashtag, some of the tweets - ignored by the media and by Twitter - which came through, revealed genuine hate speech which many Jews would consider threatening.
Now the likes of this may seem fairly innocuous, and playing to the stereotype:
I'm sure we would all agree that this is fairly inappropriate:
Then we stray into the realm of downright offensive:
Never mind this:
Surely this is the sort of thing that should get the attention of Twitter, Channel 4's social media team and potentially the police:
Or perhaps this one?
While not threatening as such, this is clearly veering into the realm of hate speech?
I am speechless that this one is still live on Twitter - and nothing has been done:
Never mind these last 2:
So I suppose the question I'm posing here is - while it's easy to police what's being said to high profile individuals on social media because they attract so much attention, policing what's being said across social media sites is far more difficult.
In this instance whose responsibility is it? Users? There's at least one tweet on the #jewishmums hashtag asking for guidance on reporting a tweet - but no response either from Twitter or, just as importantly, from the makers of the program or Channel 4 - who should have been keeping a close eye on what was being said:
Should it be down to Twitter and if so is it even possible to monitor millions of users tweeting constantly?
Or should, in this instance, it be the responsibility of the program maker who encouraged this feedback and then has done nothing whatsoever to respond to the anti-semitism or the criticism coming via their hashtag:
Although not an easy question to answer, with more and more people getting actively involved in expressing opinions via social media, it's one we need to answer very very quickly.