Here is my latest column for the Grantham Journal (published 15th June 2012)
Was interested to read this week that Frank Zimmerman was given a 26 week suspended jail term and given a restraining order for using social media (namely Twitter) to target Louise Mensch MP and threaten her children. This is, of course, a shocking example of how social media can be used to bully and threaten people, often anonymously. A tool that is extremely good at sharing information and bringing a new dimension to our lives can be perverted to make our lives a misery.
I am an ardent tweeter, and occasionally have a muddle through on Facebook, and see many opinions across a wide range of topics, some I agree with, and some I find distasteful. However, I believe that everyone has a right to express their opinion.
One interesting incident was when Lincolnshire Police were looking to identify an individual, and posted a CCTV picture on their website. This picture was then put on Facebook, and a number of comments started to appear. These comments were derogatory to the police, and indicated that even though they knew who was in the picture, they would not be prepared to assist the police. Some comments seem to indicate that if anyone was to identify this man to the police, they would be labelled a “grass”.
What social media showed us on this occasion was that even though it is an extremely powerful tool, with great potential, it is still the people who control its effectiveness.
The only problem is when this turns into something that is aggressive, something that bullies another individual, or makes them fearful for their safety or that of their family. This is where people need to understand that when posting on Twitter or Facebook (other social media platforms are available), you are publishing, so the same rules apply.
Using social media to bully, intimidate, frighten or simply abuse people should not be tolerated, and I for one will report any instances that I see. Only by showing zero tolerance to bullies will we ensure that these extremely useful platforms realise their true potential.