While the nation takes its long seasonal break, the world of social media never sleeps. There have been a number of interesting developments in relation to social media and cyber bullying over recent weeks. Clare Brown provides a round up.
- A man who sent racist messages via Twitter to two former Rangers footballers was jailed for six months yesterday. Michael Convery targeted Maurice Edu and Kyle Bartley in January 2012.
- The Information Commissioner’s Office have confirmed that it will be investigating Staffordshire Police after the authority named drink-drivers driving under the influence. They tweeted names of those charged with the offence – before appearing in court – throughout December to crack down on drink-driving over the festive period. The move has proved controversial, with the police accused of encouraging ‘trial by social media’.
- Two people yesterday admitted sending menacing Twitter messages to an MP and a feminist campaigner. Isabella Sorley and John Nimmo pleaded guilty at Westminster magistrates’ court to sending tweets last July to Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned for a woman’s face on banknotes, and Stella Creasy, Labour’s MP for Walthamstow. Sorley was remanded in custody and Nimmo bailed for sentencing on 24 January 2014. There is a thoughtful article about the case by Helen Lewis in the New Statesman, “John Nimmo and Isabella Sorley: A tale of two ‘trolls‘”
- Confide, an instant messaging service similar to Snapchat has been launched. Aimed at the business market it supposedly offers a secure, discrete messaging service which doesn’t allow screen shots or archiving of messages. As you run your finger over the message, it appears and then once you’ve read it, it disappears. The obvious flaw in this service is that you could use a camera to photograph messages.
- Message to footballers, ‘Don’t criticise your manager on Twitter’. Michael Chopra has been fined more than £10,000 and faces an uncertain future at Blackpool football club after he took to Twitter to criticise manager Paul Ince and the club’s training methods.
- An app called Jelly which helps people to pose and answer questions illustrated by photographs has been launched by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Using the crowd sourcing knowledge of your social networks, you can ask questions which are then shared via social networks, email or text messages. Contacts can then leave comments on the question, hopefully solving the original query.
- Twitter finally blocks offensive account after Louise Mensch is porn-harassed. She claimed that Twitter took no action in respect of an allegation of sexual harassment via Twitter, and said that the matter was resolved within “five minutes” after she crowdsourced for public support. Mensch posted a link to the harassment, which featured a photoshopped image of the face of Mensch, pasted onto the body of a kneeling woman in the act of fellating four men.
- The Microsoft-owned video-calling service, Skype service had both its Twitter account and its blog hacked by the prolific hacking group, Syrian Electronic Army, in protest against US surveillance.
- The decline of Facebook continues as teens switch to alternative sites, such as Whatsapp, Twitter, Ask.FM, Instagram and Snapchat. As parents try to ‘friend’ their children, teens are embarrassed to be associated with the social network. The report suggests 40% of users had never changed their privacy settings and 80% said they “were not concerned or did not care” if their personal data was available and accessed, either by an organisation or an individual.
- A counselling service for teachers – the Teacher Support Network – has revealed that private sector referrals have doubled in a year. It has been suggested that standards of behaviour in private schools are worsening, amid a rise in cyberbullying and low-level disruption. Pupils are increasingly using websites such as Twitter and Ask.fm to abuse fellow pupils and staff, it was claimed, with fears that some schools are attempting to brush problems under the carpet for commercial reasons.
- Think before you tweet because employers do not appreciate off the cuff, offensive tweets, especially if you are a PR executive. Justine Sacco was dismissed from her post as communications director for InterActive Corp (IAC) when Twitter pounced on her tweet about AIDS before her flight to South Africa.
- BT Internet caused dismay when it was revealed by the BBC that the default option on the firm’s new filter blocked a number of sex education and domestic violence victim support sites. The filter provides parents with the option of blocking access to ‘gay and lesbian lifestyle’ content, as well as information on abortion, STIs and contraception. BT have now amended the description on its customer help website, replacing the reference to gay and lesbian lifestyle with the words ‘sexual orientation’. The sex education blocking category remains. Sky launched its parental filter in November, Virgin is currently piloting a system that will be rolled out this year and TalkTalk has had a filter in place since 2011. In an article in the New Statesman Martin Robbins argued “Cameron’s internet filter goes far beyond porn – and that was always the plan“
- Twitter rolled out, then reversed a new block feature due to adverse customer feedback. The change put back in place the system that shows users when they have been blocked by another user and prevents them from sending messages. Twitter believed this wasn’t ideal, largely due to the retaliation against blocking users by blocked users (and sometimes their friends) that often occurs. The general consensus is that people are happy to be able to block and be seen to block others.
Clare Brown is Library and Information Manager at Collyer Bristow. Further information about Collyer Bristow’s Cyber Investigation Unit can be found here.