Should Twitter be doing more to tackle online bullying?

We spoke to anti-bullying charities and those who have seen and been affected by bullying on the social media site

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The Independent Online

Today, the two people who earlier this month pleaded guilty to sending menacing tweets to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creasy appeared in court. John Nimmo and Isabella Sorley have been sentenced to eight and 12 weeks immediate custody respectively, and have been ordered to pay compensation of £800.

Earlier this week former footballer Stan Collymore accused Twitter of not doing enough to combat abusive messages after he was targeted by internet trolls. TalkSPORT’s chief executive Scott Taunton said the radio station would not promote any of their affiliated Twitter accounts because of the inaction from the social media site.

According to the NSPCC, 38 per cent of young people have been affected by cyber-bullying. Statistics from show that 81 per cent of young people think bullying online is easier to get away with than bullying in person.

Twitter introduced a 'report tweet' option in August last year for users who are sent abusive messages following complaints, but are they doing enough to combat the problem of cyber bullying? We spoke to anti-bullying charities and those who have seen and been affected by bullying on the social media site. Here’s what they had to say:

Claire Lilley, Head of Child Safety Online, NSPCC

Online bullying is a growing problem, and is especially worrying for children and young people. Latest annual figures from ChildLine show an 87 per cent increase compared to just an eight per cent rise in overall bullying contacts. Young people tell ChildLine that the 24 hour nature of online bullying means there's no escape and it can lead to very serious feelings of isolation, low self-esteem and in a few desperate cases, suicide.

Some social networking sites have responded to concerns about bullying and intimidation. But the site owners could still do more to make reporting abuse easier, responding to those reports faster, and consistently blocking anyone who uses their profile to bully and abuse other users.

Natalie Farzaneh, Ambassador for the charity BeatBullying UK

After years of horrific bullying at school and on social media, I became an ambassador for the charity that in my opinion saved my life, BeatBullying. To me, it seems many people are almost desensitized by the hate culture on the internet. There are millions of users and seemingly not enough staff at Twitter to deal with 'unimportant cases'. Even if the original tweet is deleted, it can still be seen by everyone. But I've personally seen more of a prevalent problem on Tumblr rather than Twitter. There needs to be more campaigning, laws, staff on social media, and teachers teaching children about internet safety. It’s the only way forward.

Kevin Healey, National Autism Campaigner

It can take Twitter three weeks to suspend a troll account. I’ve had to promote my petition on as Twitter refuse to verify me despite trolls making impersonation accounts of me who send offensive messages in my name.  I’ve reported the abuse to the police a number of times now, but Twitter state they need a US Court order to track the offender. With cases of young people committing suicide after cyber abuse, this is a serious problem and I’m currently fighting for new laws on hate crime with 104 MPs backing my EMD172 in parliament, and Phil Bennion MEP from the West Midlands has taken my campaign to Europe.

Peter Bradley, Director of Services at UK bullying charity Kidscape

No one deserves to be the victim of bullying or abuse, and whilst Twitter should not just focus on high profile celebrity abuse cases and their reporting mechanisms need to be quicker and more effective, there is also a responsibility to the Twitter user to be responsible for their own safety. If you do feel you are being bullied on Twitter you should consider asking yourself why you are a member of the site in the first place and consider closing your account to protect yourself from further abuse.

Cybersmile (UK Anti bullying charity) The Cybersmile Foundation

The team at Twitter have engaged with us at The Cybersmile Foundation more than any other social networking site. We have found that Twitter are proactive in combatting cyber bullying as much as they can, given the number of users as well as other practical constraints. It would be nice to see other social networking sites be so open to charities and organisations in the fight against cyber bullying.

Colin Fell, Teacher, Truro and Penwith College, Cornwall

I should think almost certainly Twitter isn't doing enough - it's trying to position itself as a forum for freedom of expression where anything can be said, whilst turning a blind eye to the inevitable truth that if you allow all people to write what they like, whenever they like, some of them will say things which most of us find unpleasant or distasteful. The problem with Twitter is the speed at which it has developed, outstripping a legal framework which can't keep up-it seems the law has become reactive, not proactive, which I suppose it traditionally was. I'm not convinced Twitter has a moral position, only a commercial one-they'll only take action if their share price drops.

Linda James, MBE CEO BulliesOut         

I believe all social networking sites need to do more to deal with the bullying issues occurring. Twitter does have some good suggestions on how to deal with any cyber bullying you encounter whilst using the site. People can and do set up new profiles and the cyber bullying cycle begins all over again. Although we all have a responsibility to use sites like Twitter safely and respectfully, social networking sites have a moral obligation and a duty of care to their users to ensure tight flagging mechanisms are in place and reporting systems are improved.

Lewis Nicholls, Local radio presenter

Twitter need to clamp down on cyber bullies. So many of my followers get abuse and it has a great effect on their self-esteem, and some are as young as fifteen. I often get abuse about my sexuality, looks and my job as a radio presenter and I suffered from anxiety because of it. Twitter needs more checks in place to support those who are receiving abuse and removing trolls from Twitter.

You can read Twitter’s statement on taking action against abuse here

If you’ve been affected by cyber bullying you can contact the Samaritans and the charities listed above