A major story broke today that an Olympian, Tom Daley, who narrowly missed out on a Medal at the London Olympics was trolled on Twitter by a user called Rileyy_69, a 17-year-old boy, who made a reference that is father, who died tragically from cancer last year, would be ‘let down’ by the narrow-miss.
The exact message from the teen was:
“You let your dad down i hope you know that.“
Daley responded by tweeting as follows:
“After giving it my all… you get idiots sending me this…“
It may seem shocking to some, but this teen, who was arrested under the Malicious Communications Act 1988 did not in my view break the law, but I believe Daley did!
If one takes this post in isolation of the teens other tweets that use vulgar language, which he posted many of. But I will consider the consequences of follow up posts where he did use vulgar language, which were on the basis of ‘aggravated trolling’ or ‘fighting flame with flame’, where is someone is attacked for something they said in an offensive way they retaliate with the same. A notable case is that of Liam Stacey, who posted a barrage of racist abuse after he was criticised for mocking the cardiac arrest of Fabrice Muamba when drinking heavily after a rugby match.
The leading case on the Malicious Communications Act is DPP v Connolly. In this case it confirmed that a message sent had to be ‘grossly offensive’, a ‘threat’ or something known to be false. The case found that the motive for the message does not come in to it, nor does the person to which it is intended for have to receive it.
On this basis, I would say that even though the teen likely made the post in order to offend Daley, the message itself was not grossly offensive. Simply saying one’s father would feel let down is not offensive without the context that one’s father died tragically, is not the same as the report by Sky News of Rio Ferdinand saying that Ashley Cole who spoke in defence of John terry was “choc ice”, referring to a Black person with sympathies for White people.
I use this thing called the toddler test. If a comment would go over the heads of a toddler and if the toddler would not offend others by repeating the comments then it is not grossly offensive.
Daley on the other hand was grossly offensive called the teen an “idiot” as this is not something that one would want a toddler to repeat.
So, on the basis that the teen is being investigated under the Malicious Communications Act 1998, if parity was applied then it would be Daley who should be charged under this Act and not the teen.
However, if one were to take the meaning given to “grossly offensive” in the Communications Act 2003, as defined in DPP v Collins, then the teens message would fall foul of that Act. That is because in that case it was found that a message is grossly offensive if it is ‘intended’ to be so.
On this basis I would say the case is ‘flame-for-flame’ that is, both parties were as bad as each other. However, one might expect a teen who has not reach the age of majority to act in such a way, which I restate posted a message that would be meaningless to a toddler. But one should not expect an elite professional to respond the way that Tom Daley did, even if he was only one year older.
Looking at the later posts, where the teen interacted with others, he did committ offenses under these Acts, but they were in my view aggrevated by the abuse he received. For instance, one Twitter user said the following:
@Rileyy_69 @TomDaley1994 how dare you try and threaten someone who is diving for our country you little scum bag
This arrevated the teen in to posting the following, which has been edited to remove expletives:
@_OllyRiley i dont give a s**t bruv i’m gonna drown him and i’m gonna shoot you he failed why you suporting him you c**t
So one can see how young people can be easily inflamed into posting some of the most vile and threatening context simply because of the way they are abused by others. This message posted by the teen was thus aggravated by the previous message.
The teen apologised to Daley after “discovering” his father had died. But Daley did not accept this apology, leading the teen to tweet:
@TomDaley1994 why don’t you respond to me you prick stop getting me hate alright I’ve said I’m sorry now fuck off
The recent case of Chambers v DPP (2012) found that if a threat like this did not create apprehension then it was not prosecutable. It is unlikely that Daley or any of his followers thought the teen was able to carry out the threat, so it would not be prosecutable under the Communications Act 2003.
It is clear to me that the Crown Prosecution Service are going to have to issue some guidance on this. In my view, neither Liam Stacey nor this teen would have posted the vile abuse that followed their initial tweet had others not reacted abusively to them. There may need to be a defence of “provocation” for want of a better word for people who take part in serious flame trolling following being abused by another person.
Equally, teenagers will be teenagers, and criminalising either of them would not be in the public interest in my view. If one thinks that at present Rio Ferdinand is unlikely to face charges from the police under either the Malicious Communications Act 1988 or Communications Act 2003, looking likely to only get a slap on the wrist from the FA, is it fair that young people like this are being criminalised for things that are said in the ‘real-world’ without any action being taken?
My favourite jokes to tell are double meaning ones that could be taken one way or another. When people get offended by these I say “It is not the mouth it goes out of, it is the mind it goes into”
With Twitter and Facebook landing people in trouble for saying things in good faith which others take offense at, I think the legal system needs to develop new rules to take account of it. One that I think would be appropriate is what I am calling ‘the toddler test’.
My nephew, who I call Morgsie, enjoys playing with vaccum-cleaners. In the UK we often call these Hoovers, after one of the former major manufacturers. When Morgsie says this, he says what sounds like, ‘Vacking Hoover’, which sounds like something.
Everyone finds this so amusing. As far as he is concerned he is saying ‘Vacuum Hoover’, even though it sounds like he is saying something else.
Equally, the other day I watched the film I hadn’t watched since I was a teenager, Leathal Weapon. In this one a exhibitionist woman at the start jumped off a building. I must say the exhibiting part of it passed me by as a teenager, but it was much more interesting to me as a Nuts magazine ‘reading’ adult!
It is on this basis, that I think when assessing the impact of something someone says, to find out whether it is offensive, the legal system should apply a ‘toddler test’. If what is said would have no meaning to a typical toddler, then it should not be considered offensive.
At the pub the other day, someone was doing a magic trick on the bar-girl. He got her to put her necklace tight on her fingers and then he in a hudini way unlocked it. I asked her, “Do you regularly get fingered when you are behind the bar”. One of the partrons, Sue, who previously made an innuendo I found offensive, about my more ‘platonic’ relationship with my best friend Mark Beech being less so, said I was revolting.
It is my belief, that had I said that in front of Morgsie, that he would have thought ‘fingering’ meant taking someone’s necklace out of their hand with their finger, and not the sexualised meaning it has to more ‘mature’ persons.
So the ‘toddler test’ would be that if a statement would have either no meaning or an innocent meaning to a toddler then it should not be considered offensive.
Should people who go on drunken spates of abuse face jail terms? If you are a Welsh Assembly member the answer is no, but if you’re a young and inexperienced student the answer seems to be yes.
The reports that Liam Stacey is to face disciplinary action on top of his jail term for his drunken actions on YouTube filled me with disgust (‘Jailed online troll will face university’s panel’, May 13).
Liam Stacey was suspended from Swansea University following posting racist abuse when challenged on Twitter, and he now also has a criminal record. Yet Welsh Assembly member Keith Davies, who had a ‘real-world’ equivalent drunken episode at St David’s Hotel in Cardiff has only had to apologise.
There is probably not a student in the country who has not acted in an offensive manner when under the influence of alcohol, yet when our elected representatives do it, they are somehow above the law. It does not seem fair to me – if some people under a code of conduct have an opt-out of the criminal justice system then so should all, including students like Liam Stacey.
Popular self-confessed 12-year-old lookalike Owen Jones, who wrote the book, “Chavs: The Demonisation of the working class,” posted this tweet to Twitter:
“The General Strike has taught the working class more in four days than years of talking could have done.”- Tory Arthur Balfour
I replied to this, criticising him for glorifying class conflict, and he replied:
@jonathan_bishop To get rid of those divisions we have to understand the ones that currently exist, rather than pretend they’re not there
I think he is right that we should understand the ones that exist, and many of them are perpetuated by many associated with the Labour Party calling entrepreurs who want to do something with their life, or any public service funded by tax-payers income and not their taxes “posh”.
It seems from Labour politicans point of view, anyone who has any amount of wealth, even if they earned it from the fruits of their own Labour are “posh” and being posh is bad. One thing one can take from this is, working class voters, are not posh, and therefore as Labour aren’t posh, then if one is working class one should vote Labour.
How does one define working class? Is it someone who works hard but earns below the national average? Is it someone who is a member of a trade union who has no choice but to work in order to live?
If it was the first one, then as a risk taking entrepreneur I meet that definition. In terms of the second, well I could not maintain my existence without working, but how does one define ‘trade union’?
For me being working class has little to do with income and more to do with division of labour and control over one’s working life. I would say one is working class where:
- One works for an employer for income and has little freedom over the work they do and the direction it takes.
- One cannot vary one’s asking price for work as one’s paymasters has one tied down to a restrictive contract of employment
- One cannot easily withdraw one’s labour without risking breach of contract and losing one’s income stream
- One cannot send someone else to do one’s work if one is ill, meaning one could lose one’s income for the day one is not at work
- One has to work a set amount of hours in order to get by and often relies on overtime to make ends meet.
- One can be moved from a task one is enjoying doing without any say-so if that is what one’s paymaster wants
Trade unions depend on the working class, as if there were not people under the restrictive conditions above, they would have no purpose. I am self-employed, and probably take home less money that most workers in those jobs above. However, I don’t see myself as working class, for one because none of the above apply to me, and also because I:
- Enjoy the fruits of my own labour – the profit made from the work I do goes to me
- I control my own means of production – I can do whatever work I think profitable, at present writing and speaking, and I can vary how much I do and when I do it
- I control my own means of distribution – I can sell my products and services to whoever I want who also want it. I can distribute it via any printer/publisher, I can choose my own supply chain, engage my own marketers, etc.
- I control my own means of exchange – I can decide to only write for people who pay me certain royalties, or I can choose to barter, by providing a person with a good or service in exchange for theirs, or even using what I call ‘co-operative advantage’ which is where I work with others pro-bono in the hope of future profits from what we co-produce
Ask yourself this. If everyone, like me, was self-employed and a member of a profession body that gave similar rights to traditional trade unions, then who would join these traditional trade unions? Equally, if every worker was emancipated through self-employment, accountable only to themselves and not being supressed by an employer or trade union, and therefore not working class, then who would vote Labour?
While Labour and The Sun are the guardians of the working class, and the Tories and certain broadsheets are the guardians of the business owners the class system in this country will continue to perpetuate. It is only by breaking past these divides and people taking control of their own working life, perhaps through self-employment, that the suppression of the working classes can end, as they would cease to be working class and start being the individuals they are.
There are people across the country acting so smug that they know something the Prime Minister doesn’t know. The BBC reports on what the Twitterverse is calling ‘lolgate’, which is the apparent revelation that David Cameron needed to be told that LOL does not mean ‘lots of love’ as he and other older generations would like it to, but in fact means ‘laugh at loud’ according to younger generations. Well I am laughing out loud at them. Most of these people, young and old, are still growing their cyberpubes as Noobs (newbies) who never used the Internet before the start of the century.
The Internet dictionary NetLingo (www.netlingo.com), which has existed since the early 1990s, when I started using the Internet, makes it clear that there is more than one meaning for LOL. They say LOL can mean the common ‘laugh out loud’, ‘lots of laughs’ as well as ‘lots of love’.
In fact, my first use of LOL back then was ‘lots of laughs’. However, I and a small number of other Internet users resented the use of LOL to reflect one’s joy, as we feel it devalues ‘emoticons’. The emoticon ‘:-D’ means the same as ‘laugh out loud’ and, in fact, many Internet chat platforms will using the same computer graphic for ‘LOL;’ as ‘:-D’
So for anyone who thought they were ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ for thinking they knew the meaning of LOL or indeed that David Cameron was “out of touch” for not sharing their meaning, I think the last laugh-out-loud is on you. To Internet scholars like myself I am glad he is not going with the crowd, who are still novices on the Internet who lack the depth of exposure to Internet culture of veterans despite how clever they feel.
Whenever I get the opportunity now, I’m going to write that LOL has different meanings to different generations. To older Noobs it means ‘lots of love’ and to younger Noobs it means ‘laugh out loud’.
The tip of the iceberg is that John Prescott, as reported in that BBC article, wants a freedom of information request to access David Cameron’s text messages. Would he be happy for all the recorded minutes of his cabinet meetings to be made public? I doubt it. So I sent him this tweet below:
WTF Doesn’t @johnprescott have a life? http://t.co/baJnwjhA IMHO he should ALTG There is life beyond politics. FFS JAD for him it seems! )
He has not responded, I guess he is not as with it as he thought, as there is so much to learn beyond LOL. Maybe he could buy a paper copy of Netlingo to look them up with in a more familiar format.
GROWING incidents of online bullying and internet fraud have led to a massive growth in e-crimes reported to South Wales Police.
Officers have seen a phenomenal 15,000% growth in crime involving the web over the past five years.
In 2007, just eight incidents of cyber crime were logged whereas in 2011 the figure reached 1,207.
The data, released under the Freedom of Information Act, shows police were recording more than five e-crimes a day at its peak last year in 2010.
The number of e-crimes has risen each year between 2007 and 2010, but last year fell from 1,976 recorded incidents to 1,207.
Detective Inspector Dave Runnalls, of South Wales Police’s economic crime unit, said: “There are a number of reasons for the growth in reported cases of e-crime in South Wales, principally the force has changed the way in which it identifies this type of criminal activity.
“However, the incidents of e-crime have also increased nationally, which relates to the fact that online purchasing has massively increased.” DI Runnalls said criminals may pose as a legitimatewebsite then use a “phishing” technique to steal credit card details, or to obtain cash for goods victims never receive.
“Theft, fraud, forgery and blackmail are all examples of crimes that can take place on the web, and hackers may strike from thousands of miles away,” he added.
A spokeswoman for e-Crime Wales said: “As awareness of e-crime has increased over the last five years so has the increase in reporting e-crime as consumers and businesses are now more aware of the risks and are better able to identify and report them.”
Internet expert Jonathan Bishop,who runs the anti-bullying website Crocels Trolling Academy, said: “With each new wave of technology comes new opportunities for [criminals] to target others.
“Whereas once people who attacked others on the internet would either go unchallenged or be brought under a dedicated act – such as on race – police are now starting to make use of data misuse legislation.”
YOUNG PEOPLE TARGETED BY INTERNET BULLYING
MORE than a third of young people have been affected by cyberbullying, but many do not tell anyone, research suggests.
A study commissioned by the Diana Award children’s organisation found that 38% of young people had been victims of, or knew someone who had been a victim of, cyber-bullying. Of these, 39% said they had experienced cyber-bullying once or twice.
Yet it is not just young people who are victims of cyber-bullying – a number of Welsh celebrities have also come under attack on the internet.
Glamour model Imogen Thomas, opera star Katherine Jenkins and rugby great Gareth Thomas have all in the past been targeted on social networking sites. The most recent high profile case of cyber-bullying involved football legend John Hartson – he decided to quit Twitter after several incidents earlier this year.
As a former IT professional in the construction industry I was shocked to read Steve Rotheram MP’s comments in the Western Mail (Coffeebreak Quotes of the Day, April 25).
Mr Rotheram said: “Having worked on building sites, believe me, some of the strangest characters I have ever met in my life are in Parliament. It’s a very strange place.”
Is Mr Rotheram trying to suggest that people on building sites are strange? The construction industry has been the backbone of Wales, providing the many jobs and facilities needed in Wales. Mr Rotheram’s apparent contempt for the construction industry is shared by his newly found Labour colleagues at Westminster.
In 2007 the Labour Government proved it was under the thumb of the trade unions by forcing most sub-contractors to become employees. This meant that during the downturn from 2008 they had to be made redundant because there was not enough work and equally as they had lost their status as sub-contractor they couldn’t easily work for someone else, as they could prior to 2007.
Mr Rotheram has been campaigning for new internet trolling laws. Would he expect these to be used on people calling others “strange” online, or “deranged” as he has on Twitter?
It was with sympathy that I read about the abuse faced by mother Bridget Agar, who was targeted by Facebook trolls who set up a fake account in her late son’s name to taunt her (“Grieving mother’s disgust at messages in dead son’s name”, Derby Telegraph, April 19).
Known as ‘Sockpuppet trolling’, after the cottonmade glove characters one operates with one’s hands, this type of troller is common on the internet but more often than not for good rather than bad.
For instance, one can follow the Downing Street cat on Twitter or, in my case, people can become a fan of my family’s pedigree Yorkshire terrier on Facebook, where with me acting as a “Sockpuppet troller”, Sammie talks about the funny things he gets up to.
It is clear, though, that the dark side of Sockpuppet trolling exists and, for Bridget and others, little is often done about it.
There are laws to deal with the harmful variety, however, as old as the Malicious Communications Act 1988 and as recent as the Communications Act 2003.
The police have no excuse for receiving taxpayers’ money and then doing nothing while the public suffer abuse, which they seem more likely to prosecute if it is one of their own – as they did with Gavin Brent, from Flintshire, in 2008.
As the founder of the Trolling Academy, I felt I had to write to concur with the comments of Alan Francis from Llanelli, who wrote in criticising the fuss regarding the comments of surgeon, Brendan O’Riordan.
While it might seen shocking hearing him say he was “slaughtering” patients, in context one can see it was not made in bad faith. One can see his comments no different to a member of the public saying they are going to see a nurse to be “stabbed” when going for a blood test.
In criminal law cases in the UK it is necessary at trial to prove “mens rea” (ie guilty mind) to show that someone intended to do something. I instead think this should have to be proven before trial on the basis of whether an act was made in good faith or bad faith. If the former was true there would be no criminal prosecution, only an option for civil action if the person was harmed.
One cannot compare Mr O’Riordan’s remarks with those of Liam Stacey, sentenced recently for his racist comments on Twitter. Nor can they be compared with the actions of Sean Duffy from Reading, who perpetually harasses grieving families however many 13 week sentences he is subject to.
We need some common sense in dealing with Internet trolling. If we all faced prosecution for the offensive things we said in the real world, then the prisons would be crammed full!