Time to ban social media trolls who stay anonymous – GP Taylor

YOU would think that in a time of crisis such as this, it would bring society closer together. Yet, I would say that this summer has been the most divisive ever.

Keyboard warriors should not be able to hide behind the cloak of anonymity on social media, argues GP Taylor.

Instead of having a wartime spirit, it seems as if people are becoming angrier, ruder and more self-centred. Even the BBC is pushing the boundaries.

It’s not just on TV where the angry brigade vent their foul tempers and spew out their bile. On the streets, even though we are all supposed to be social distancing, there have been mass demonstrations wanting to bring down the police and undermine capitalism. This isn’t the way to bring people together, it only serves to push us all further apart.

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Such is the anger of the mob that even writing this, I fear what might happen. The trouble is that Covid has brought out the worst in people.

GP Taylor says urgent action is needed to stop the spread of hate on social media.

Having spoken to a number of friends in the holiday industry, the feedback I get is that this is the worst year ever. All I hear is that guests are ruder and more demanding than any time 
before.

No one seems to be happy and nothing provided is good enough. One person told me that they had got a complaint because there wasn’t the right kind of tea left in the welcome pack in their self-catering cottage. The other things I have been told are so outrageous I wouldn’t want to see them in print.

I believe the internet is fuelling this worrying change in attitude. Many experts believe that social media is directly responsible for the rise in anger and rudeness in our society.

Being locked down has bred an army of anonymous armchair warriors who are prepared to make their feelings known regardless of the hurt they may cause.

The psychologist Danny Wallace says people “have to broadcast that opinion, importantly, and in a forthright manner so that they cut through the noise. Rudeness cuts through”.

He goes on to say that anonymity and a lack of face-to- face contact can also fuel the negative way people are with each other.

I have only ever been badly trolled once in my life after an appearance on TV talking about books. The hate mob seized upon me like hungry hounds on a fox. One kind soul encouraged this by trying to get more people to troll me “until his head explodes”.

It was one of the saddest times of my life and had me in tears at the depth of anger and hatred people felt towards me. After that, I dumped my Facebook and Twitter accounts and now cannot see what people write about me.

The worrying thing was that most of the people were anonymous. They hid behind false identities so that they could not be traced.

They could be as nasty as they wanted and no one knew who they were.

I managed to track one down to a council office in Norfolk. I even found a photograph of him online. He was just an ordinary bloke with a nine to five job who lived in a nice house.

When he was online, he was a monster who flung hatred at many people he didn’t like. I just wonder what his bosses would say if they knew they had a vile troll standing next to them in the office.

But it totally beggars belief that people are still allowed to hide behind false identities in this day and age.

There are 3.7 billion internet users in the world. That is nearly half the population of the planet.

A YouGov survey reported that 28 per cent of respondents admitted to malicious online activity directed to someone they didn’t know.

That is an awful lot of hate. People feel they have the right to say whatever they want, even if it is libellous. A staggering 65 per cent of internet users have reported harassment or abuse and in America, there were 2.5 million people who were stalked online.

The hate spreaders do not seem to understand that there are severe consequences to the words they type on their keyboards. The attitude of people using the internet is spilling over into day to day life.

There has to be accountability. Everyone using the internet must be made by law to state who they are. People cannot be allowed to hide behind the veil of anonymity and should be made responsible for every word they type.

In a fractured world, there is an even greater need to bring peace and understanding between people.

The current situation breeds a level of behaviour that not even a pack of wolves would take part in.

Laws need to be changed and the identity of everyone using the internet has to be public.

GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He lives in Whitby.

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Thank you

James Mitchinson