"If Stan is so against death threats, why was he so insistent on making death threats against me?" Ulrika Jonsson, the battered former girlfriend of Stan Collymore, questioned, probably after negotiating a large chunk of cash in return for her The Sun exclusive front page splash.
And she may well have a point. Her turbulent relationship with the former footballer in 1998 was “fraught”, she says, with “physical and psychological abuse” which was far worse, no doubt, to experience in person than anything a virtual troll could vacantly hurl on Twitter.
“I never knew where I was with Stan,” she told the paper. “He would flip between claiming he wanted to marry me, to calling me a ‘thick idiot’ and accusing me of wanting to sleep with other men. He was a textbook abuser.”
She added that while “everyone deserves a second chance,” Collymore’s countless failures to do the right thing in her eyes had not merited forgiveness. “He still proves a callous bully,” she continued, objecting to his “guise as a man of the people” after his 12-hour Twitter protest following the micro blogging site’s failure to tackle the barrage of racial abuse he received from Liverpool fans following his suggestion that striker Luis Suarez had dived during Saturday’s match against Aston Villa.
The trouble is, it’s the wrong point. And making the wrong point transforms her very valid anger after a horrifying past experience with the star into opportunistic capitalisation of publicity.
“Now’s your opportunity to throw him under the bus,” a Sun reporter is rumoured to have told Jonsson over the phone as she regaled them with the traumatic details.
The point here is about a multi-billion-pound company with a vast and ever-expanding influence over modern life brushing aside criminal threats and incitements to racial hatred, and fobbing Collymore and TalkSPORT off with an inadequate copy-and-paste response that does little to discount the vile bullying behaviour of several of their users.
No, we are not living in communist China. And it would be equally wrong to ebb the flow of free speech by strictly policing what followers are able to post online. But a company with such power and persuasion over society as we know it has to be held in some way accountable for the mental and physical welfare of those that use their service.
Bullying in any form – virtual or otherwise – is wrong. And the sooner social platforms take proper steps to combat it, the better.