Being on Twitter when something is “happening” can often feel like watching a very slow car crash. And yesterday, the person at the centre of such an occurrence was Flora Gill – a journalist and radio presenter who also happens to be the former Tory home secretary Amber Rudd’s daughter.
Gill wrote a tweet which swiftly “went viral” – though she may well wish it hadn’t, given she deleted it moments after the backlash began. The content of the controversial post can still be found online (and half of Twitter appears to be sharing screenshots of it), but ICYMI, it went like this: “Someone needs to create porn for children. Hear me out [...]. Young teens are already watching porn but they’re finding hardcore, aggressive videos that give a terrible view of sex. They need entry level porn! A softcore site where everyone asks for consent and no-one gets choked etc”.
Reactions to the post have almost been as incendiary as its content, with people calling for Gill to be “cancelled”. Some have launched savage personal attacks; others have defended her position and original intention, if not her choice of words: “Flora Gill was just making a point about how teenagers have access to too much hardcore porn which is totally valid but she just totally f****d it,” one person tweeted.
Gill herself followed up her original tweet with this: “Apropos of nothing I really think if someone quickly deletes a tweet, it shouldn’t be screenshotted and shared like... just let it die, you know? no? no one else agree?” She also attempted to clarify her original post by tweeting that when she said “children” she did not mean younger kids: “To clarify- children means under 18. I’m talking about 14/15/16 year olds.” That tweet has now also been deleted.
She was very aware of getting into virtual hot water, writing: “Absolutely not getting swept up into another twitter cesspool so deleted tweet before it picks up steam! Obviously not an actual solution, but it is a real problem. Everyone take a deep breath.”
And she conceded her original tweet was badly worded, adding: “That’s literally all i meant! there should be porn that focusses on consent etc, and we should stop pretending that under 18 year olds aren’t watching it. But i get that my wording was.... abysmal.”
To be kind to Gill, we’ve all said things online we wish we hadn’t. We’ve likely all been picked apart at one point or another – whether it’s on Twitter, other social media or even a simple text – for things we’ve phrased thoughtlessly or badly; where our original intention has been lost or distorted. Distilling our opinions in a coherent way into a finite number of characters can be tough at the best of times, and we aren’t entirely used to it – we’ve only been doing it since 2006, when Twitter was launched . Sometimes, our private thoughts and musings might not be best made public: Gill has found that out.
Whether she had a justifiable point to make or not – after all, we do know that kids as young as seven are watching porn, with children describing feeling “grossed out” and “confused”, and it’s clear we need to tackle the thorny subject with our children to remind them that pornography isn’t an accurate representation of how sex should be enjoyed – a casual post clearly isn’t the place to do so.
If this online car crash can teach us anything, it is this: Be very, very careful what you tweet. We’ve seen cases before of Twitter trolls getting their comeuppance and people have been “cancelled” and publicly shamed. Some have lost their jobs over comments posted online.
Sometimes the nuances of what you’re trying to say can be lost in 280 characters; sincerity swept aside with as little as a rogue full-stop. So let Gill’s Twitter experience be a warning to us all: that it might be worth us all taking a moment to think about hitting the brakes.
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