26 February 2024

Five celebrities including Countdown co-host Rachel Riley and actress Amber Heard gave the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) access to some of their social media accounts. Their aim was to monitor their accounts for trolling or other unwanted activity. According to a recent BBC article, Ms Riley said “It really makes me not want to go into my DMs at all because it’s revolting.” Adding later “On Instagram, anyone can privately send you something that should be illegal. If they did it on the street, they’d be arrested.”

Seemingly, internet trolls are free to roam and the social media giants appear unwilling to act. The CCDH reported 253 accounts via Instagram, only to find 227 of them were still active a month later. In what seems overly fair to the trolls, and somewhat less fair to victims, Meta will merely give the perpetrator a strike and temporary ban for an infringement. A troll can be back online in a matter of days and free to continue harrassing people until reported again.

So what’s to be done? Well all we can suggest is reporting every infringement. Getting trolls banned even for a couple of days may prevent someone else from being harrassed. Blocking the perpetrator will prevent you from being harrassed by that individual at least, but is this the best way? If you’re able to withstand the harrassment, it may be better to leave them unblocked and continually report them. We assume that the ‘strikes’ handed out by Meta and other social media giants will accumulate to at some point require harsher actions. Hopefully this will mean longer term bans and permanent exclusions for serial offenders. The Social Media Giants really do need to step up their game here.

ADVICE: Our advice is to report trolls and harrassment immediately through the platform’s normal processes. It might result in only a temporary ban, but at least it’s a message to the perpetrator that their behaviour is unacceptable. Let’s all hope the social media giants get onboard and start issuing longer term (or permanent) bans to those who don’t wake up after a warning or two.

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