Twitter 'trolliday' protest against abuse divides opinion

Alastair Stewart

Former ITV News presenter

Thousands will take part in the #twittersilence protest today. Credit: Press Association

There is a fascinating debate raging on Twitter over '#twittersilence' - a campaign to keep one's '140 character powder' dry, for 24 hours.

The self-denying ordinance is in protest at the hideous and illegal effluent gushing from the poisonous 'pens' of what are commonly called 'trolls' - often, though not always, anonymous inadequates who target individuals for their beliefs, creeds, sexual preferences and, most pitifully, gender.

Read: Twitter 'trolliday' declared in protest at abuse

It began with Caroline Criado-Perez who had the audacity to suggest a woman, in addition to HM the Queen, should grace the paper currency. She won but at a frightful price.

She was abused, humiliated and threatened in an entirely unacceptable fashion.

Read: Equality campaigner Criado-Perez targeted on Twitter

Then came the impressive Labour MP for Walthamstow, Stella Creasy, who was threatened with rape and other assaults. She has reported some of her 'trolls' to some good effect - the Police are now investigating several individuals.

A number of high-profile 'tweeps' - Caitlin Moran, Francis Barber, Kirstie Allsop and Matthew d'Ancona have joined this 24 hour protest.

So have I.

The gist of the debate is between those who say this silence is an acquiescence to the very 'trolls' we are objecting to and those of us who think it a reasonable gesture of protest and solidarity.

There are some who see it is a freedom of speech issue but I think they are on an extreme limb.

The key to our position is that , for several days now, we have 're-tweeted' the detritus littering on timelines so people can see what is being said to, and about, whom.

It is as eye-opening as it is distasteful. Further, we have urged action which has resulted in police activity and a very public apology from the boss of Twitter UK.

Read: Twitter boss makes personal apology to troll victims

The key to the other side's position, well articulated by the excellent Dan Hodges, is that silence means the trolls have won.

The purpose of this brief blog is to urge you to look at Twitter and see what has been said and what is being said; it is also to encourage some discourse about social media - a platform I eschewed for a long-time but now see as a useful journalistic tool and an amusing, and informative, means of communication between friends, colleagues and strangers.

In the right hands it is gold-dust; in the wrong hands it is malicious, hurtful and illegal.

Worth pondering.