Abuse of Marcus Rashford shows why Twitter and social media ID should be mandatory – GP Taylor
Hiding behind their shield, they are free to be as caustic and vicious as they like. Nothing is out of bounds and truth is not a word they understand.
These keyboard warriors revel in being able to say whatever they want and never have to face the consequences. They make the internet and social media a cesspit, a charnel ground of bad taste and hate speech.
It is as if there is a need within them to hurt for the sake of hurting and gang up like a pack of dogs to destroy those who have an alternative world view.
I thank God that I have a thick skin and don’t really care what people think or say about me. I am not worried when people speak ill of me. In fact, it only makes me feel very sad for them.
However, even with a thick skin and ‘don’t care’ attitude, being trolled is not a pleasant experience, hence the reason why I abandoned Facebook and Twitter some years back. I got sick of seeing the depths people are prepared to sink to insult or destroy a person’s reputation.
I know of many people to whom these anonymous trolls have brought misery and depression. Now is the time that everyone on social media should have to identify themselves by removing the shield of anonymity.
The problem is that the internet is a perfect place for disinhibition. It is the social inhibition of face to face contact that stops us from being aggressive. People on social media are removed from the norms of life.
The person they attack or troll is at a distance and they feel they can say what they want without repercussions. The internet is sometimes seen as being not the real world, a place where anything goes. Disinhibition is a major factor in why social media can be a vile swamp of anger and hate that fuels homophobia and racism.
Some people love combative interaction and enjoy the cut and thrust of a Twitter thread. There is no harm in expressing our views, that is a fundamental right of free speech.
The problem comes when people cross the line and abuse and torment those they disagree with. The internet is a place where kindness has no real place. It is the ‘wild west’ of the modern age where sharp shooting finger fighters blow away their opponents with acerbic verbs.
It is time that being anonymous on the internet has to stop. Trolls have to come out of the woodwork and identify who they really are. Perhaps if they knew that their boss or partner could read the bile they spew out, they would think again before bashing the keys.
Knowing the real name of someone who is identifiable and traceable, backed up by rigorous libel laws, could put an end to the hate speech such as the vitriol directed at the footballers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka after England lost the Euro 2020 final on penalties. Perhaps then, people might think about what they are writing and the words they used.
Far from it being a great meeting of minds and a place of debate, there is a tendency for internet discussions to sink into abuse.
Anonymity is one of the major reasons for this. It is human nature for us all to want to be seen in the best light. If we all had to produce a passport and proof of address as a means of logging into social media, then many of the trolls would vanish overnight.
Having tracked down a particularly nasty troll, I realise that most of them are complete cowards when challenged face to face and made to feel accountable for their words. These people have no place in a modern, liberal society. Free speech does not have to be tainted with hate and personal abuse. It is not right that someone should try and destroy a life just because they don’t agree with what the other person is saying.
According to research, trolling can cause significant harm and distress. It is associated with serious physical and psychological effects including disrupted sleep, lowered self-esteem, depression, self-harm and even suicide in some cases. These are certainly good reasons to stop it now.
As the internet becomes an integral part of daily life, action has to be taken to make it a safer place. The concerns for privacy do not outweigh the need to have social media regulated.
If companies do not agree, then the Government should simply switch them off and let the power of economics force the change.
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He lives in East Yorkshire.
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