Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Robbie Farah's trolling ordeal and the push to censor Twitter

Gotta feel sorry for Robbie Farah. Must be horribly upsetting to have such nasty things tweeted about his mother's death. But this crusade he's on is just pointless. He, like Charlotte Dawson, has made the mistake of feeding the trolls. And of course the abuse hasn't stopped.

Obviously, anyone who posts such nasty, vile hate messages is a waste of skin. But unless they're actually making physical threats then you should just ignore or block them. If a well known person acknowledges that the troll really landed a punch it makes him feel important somehow -- exactly the result he craves. 

Obviously, if someone is posting what seem like serious and repeated threats to kill or harm then that's another matter. Go to the coppers. And if someone is tweeting lies about you -- saying you're a crook or rapist or whatever -- and it's affecting your reputation, then maybe defo action is justified.

But this recent troll-hunting push is not about defamation or criminality on Twitter. It's something else entirely. It's more to do with taste, really.

It reminds me of the legislation that the complainants in the Andrew Bolt case used to silence him. It's Orwellian as all get out.

It's stupid in the extreme to enact and enforce laws to protect people from having their feelings hurt because by their very nature they are so subjective.

Then there's the slippery slope aspect: Firstly, how can you define when major snark crosses the line into intolerable trolling? Twitter is a seething maelstrom of bitchiness. If the wished-for crackdown were to occur the jails would be full in no time, and the authorities still wouldn't have put a dent in the problem.

And if mocking someone's death on Twitter is deemed a criminal offence, then what about other media? The Chaser gleefully making fun of Peter Brock's demise comes to mind here. Nasty, tasteless and offensive, sure. But criminal? (Actually, I thought it was one of the best things they did because it actually required some writing, musical and performance skill, unlike most of their other "work".)

If this taste push gets momentum, then will such sketches be deemed illegal? If they are, then that would be terrifying. And if they aren't, well, it would just show how silly and inconsistent this nanny statist campaign actually is.

I think you can make a strong case that the Chaser boys should be thrown in jail for crimes against comedy. But of course that would be ridiculous -- just a little more so than criminalizing nasty tweets.

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