Posts tagged ‘twitter’

The mask of civility and reason

For one of the few MPs with supposed libertarian leanings, the following tweet, even given the character limitations of twitter, hardly ranks amongst as Douglas Carswell’s finest utterings:

It doesn’t take much imagination to realise that this went down like a cup of cold sick with those who are in favour of free speech no matter how distasteful it can get and he came in for a bit of stick from them.

Carswell went on to ‘clarify’ his opening remarks in replies to some of the responses he received, saying that he’d like to be able to ‘exclude anonymous posters from one’s time line’ – an idea that perhaps (as a user-enabled setting) has legs assuming that anyone can come up with an acceptable definition of ‘anonymous’. Given that Guido and Old Holborn still use those identities even though pretty much everyone knows who Guido is these days and Old Holborn’s name was made public earlier this year, which side of the line do you place them? What about those like me who use a pseudonym as a handle but have their forename as their display name? Personally I’d place the odds of coming up with something that might suit Doug, let alone anyone else, at about the same as producing a useable internet porn filter.

The ‘explanation’ however leaves something to be desired as an optional block is a world away from wanting to sync twitter handles with the electoral roll in a cack-handed attempt to force civility on tweeters. Whilst I tend to be civil online (although my language is known to get somewhat fruity in meatspace), others are just as forthright in person as they are online so, anonymous or not, civility is not a certainty just because you know the real name of the person who has just suggested you perform some anatomically impossible act or has called you names that are slang for parts of the body.

Since Carswell is someone who has previous lauded the idea of the internet as a way of doing without big government, it is rather depressing to see him fall into the exact same trap. Is this simply the result of drinking the water in the Palace of Westminster or has his mask finally slipped?

On taking offence

The FA Cup quarter final match between Tottenham and Bolton on Saturday afternoon was abandoned after the Bolton player Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch towards the end of the first half. He was taken to hospital and is (at the time of writing) said to be in a critically ill-condition.

This is obviously deeply upsetting for his family, friends and teammates – as well as something which no doubt shocked those present at the game and those watching it on the TV.

Inevitably however there have been some jokes and comments about this and, thanks to the speed of communications these days, many people have now heard or read a variety of them.

Black humour and distasteful jokes about distressing, upsetting and tragic events are nothing new. I heard a whole bunch of ones after the Hillsborough disaster – of which I remember one or two – and equally my parents can probably recall some about the Aberfan disaster. No doubt there were some about the September 11th attacks as well as plenty of other events where calamity has struck.

Indeed, some of the worst purveyors of black humour are those who deal with death far more often than the rest of us, e.g. police, medical staff and funeral directors. It is, in many cases, a defence mechanism – a way of coping with the situation.

That didn’t however stop the Twitter rent-a-mob entering high gear in pursuit of those who had the temerity to crack or share the jokes in question. In one or two cases the irony of this was palpable as they had, only a few days ago, been complaining about the gaoling of the blogger Olly Crowell who will next month (assuming it doesn’t get postponed once again) be facing trial under the Malicious Communications Act for his use of foul language in respect of a number of Bexley councillors.

Whilst the jokes about Muamba where undoubtably distasteful, people seem to have forgotten that there is no law which says you cannot be offended. If you don’t like something then change the channel, turn twitter off until the storm has passed (they usually only last a few hours) and go and do something else.

Don’t though throw your toys out of the pram and start hounding users simply because they have written something which you dislike. There are plenty of profession offence seekers out there without scores of amateurs needing to join in.

Guardian press release regurgitation fail

On Tuesday the security firm Unisys released the latest results of what they call their bi-annual global Unisys Security Index, a ‘global study that provides insights into the attitudes of consumers on a wide range of security related issues‘.

Of the two questions that the survey asked, it was the second one about social media, which caught the attention of the MSM – or the Guardian anyway.

What did they ask?

During recent unrest in major UK cities, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter were used to coordinate criminal activity. Do you agree with these statements?

  • The authorities are playing catch up and need more resources to monitor online behaviour?
  • During outbreaks of unrest, providers should temporarily shut down social networks to prevent coordinated criminal activity?
  • The authorities should have open access to data about social network users in order to prevent coordinated criminal activity>
  • Providers of social networks should get more information on the people using their services before they allow use?

The Gruniad’s article on the matter says:

More than two-thirds of adults support the shutdown of social networks during periods of social unrest such as the riots in England this summer, new research has revealed.

A poll of 973 adults carried out for the online security firm Unisys found 70% of adults supported the shutdown of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), while only 27% disagreed.

Which, after reading the report proper, only goes to confirm (as if confirmation were needed) that one should never take anything in the press at face value these days (if indeed one ever could).

The report says that the following percentages agreed with the four statements above: 49%, 48%, 46% and 42%.

Almost half I’ll grant you but hardly a majority, let alone 70%. Helpfully the report also gives some idea of how the responses breakdown by age. Not fully but enough to give us more of an idea of the views of each age group. It found that:

[The] desire to take strong measures rises with age:

  • More resources for police: 41% of those 18-24 to 52% of those 50-64 (seniors: 44%)
  • Temporary shut-downs during social unrest: from 28% of those 18-24 to 60% of seniors
  • Police monitoring: from 36% of those 18-24 to 52% of seniors
  • Background checks of new users: from 28% of those 18-24 to 49% of seniors.

Which shows us that a majority only exists as you go up the age scale. No surprises there. As for the 70% figure? The closest we get is for one age group on one statement.

Indeed the figure ’70’ doesn’t feature anywhere in the report, or assuming that the reporter James Ball (whose bio says that he ‘is a data journalist working for the Guardian investigations team. He joined the Guardian from Wikileaks, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’) didn’t get beyond it, the press release either.

About the only useful bit of the Guardian article therefore is the space filling rent-a-quote:

“It’s very worrying that people would believe shutting down social networks would be in any way desirable,” said Padraig Reidy, news editor of Index on Censorship. “The vast majority of social network use during the unrest was people spreading information and helping each other get home safely. These kinds of actions would weaken the UK’s position against authoritarian regimes who censor internet access. As we live more of our lives online, people should be conscious of the amount of power they’re potentially handing over to government.”

None of which I can disagree with at all.


In the light of last week’s stupidities in London, Essex Police Foarce took great delight earlier this week informing the public what they are doing to stop such silliness breaking out in the county.

Sadly for them, much mockery was directed their way when it turned out that their preventative actions included such gems as this:

A 20-year-old man from Colchester who allegedly sent messages from a Blackberry encouraging people to join in a water fight has been charged with encouraging or assisting in the commission of an indictable only offence under the Serious Crime Act 2007. He has been conditionally bailed to appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on September 1.

Indeed, so mocked were they on twitter that they issued this follow-up:

Re water fight comments – police believe there may be more involved in light of recent disorder

Which rather sounds like someone went ‘Oh heck, this isn’t playing well. Better come up with something to make it sound more ominous.’

The Telegraph reports a spokesman as saying:

A spokesman for Essex Police indicated the BlackBerry Messenger network was under surveillance by police, saying: “I’m sure we are making efforts to monitor such correspondence, wherever they are,” he said.

He said the plans for a ‘water fight’ may have been a cover for rioting. “In the light of recent events, we would have to be careful that [the planned water fight] is not all that it seems,” he said.

As I doubt that Essex Police have the manpower to monitor everything on BBM, I’m going to assume that the ‘monitoring’ is, at best, someone flagging up key words and phrases and then asking RiM to match telephone numbers to names.

It will be interesting to see what happens come September 1st. Will the Police back this up with evidence, drop it or have the Magistrate laugh them out of court?

An unfortunate juxtaposition

Twitter Trends in the UK, afternoon of 4th August 2011

Shane Warne, Australian leg-spin bowler and one of the greatest bowlers of all time. A man whose name put the fear of God into every English batting line up for over a dozen years. A man whose test record against England stands at 36 matches, 1792.5 overs, 488 maidens, 4535 runs, 195 wickets at an average of 23.25, and whose Herculean efforts in the 2005 Ashes series where he took 40 of the 93 English wickets to fall in the 5 Tests almost single handedly denied them a first win against the Australians in 18 years.

Many a fan of English cricket may well have occasionally wished him ill as he once again ran through the ever crumbly middle order of the English cricket team in the 1990’s and early 2000’s but I like to think that none of them would have sandwiched him, as twitter did yesterday afternoon, between the Death Penalty and Capital Punishment.

The internet can, at times, be a very cruel place.

Freedom of Speech?

Luke O’Donoughoe, a particularly brain-dead specimen of humanity if one is to go by the picture of him in the Daily Fail, has gained himself an (no doubt) unwanted footnote in history by being the first person to be banned from a football ground for life because of remarks he made on twitter.

That ban has now been followed up with a criminal record ‘for sending an offensive message by public communication network under the Communications Act 2003′ and 120 hours of community service.

His crime? In the now deleted tweet (or tweets) he referred to a recent club signing using a word beginning with ‘N’ which is deemed to be offensive. Whether the player that the remarks were about saw them is unknown but what is known is that lots of others took offense on his behalf and it is their anger which has led us to where we are now.

That the word has history is undeniable but for all of that it is still a single word – and such a small word at that, consisting as it does, of only 6 letters and two syllables. Words though convey meanings and some, such as the one O’Donoughoe used, contain a lot more information than others.

Should he be punished though for using it? Indeed should anyone be punished for using words that others may deem to be offensive – especially if the person to whom they were directed didn’t see and/or hear them? Is second-hand offensiveness now as permissable in this country as second-hand smoking?

If we are truely a society that permits freedom of speech then people should be allowed to use the words without fearing that the State will punish them for it.

And before anyone shouts at me, I am not saying that the use of them should be consequence free. As the (I presume) owners of their ground, Norwich City are perfectly within their rights to ban O’Donoughoe from their property for life and, if being banned from the home ground of the team he supports isn’t enough, the internet will undoubtedly make sure that his stupidity – or at least some reference to it – is always there for others to see.

Being ostracised by society is a far more effective punishment for your sins than anything the State can impose.