As a victim of online trolls, I can say that Arlene Foster right to call out co-ordinated abuse

A letter from Ann Travers:

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 11:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 12:50 pm
Anonymous people create twitter accounts to tweet as many vile messages as they can type and send, before you block them

I welcome Arlene Foster calling out the social media companies and their responsibilities to their users, amid trolling (see link below).

She is quite right when she talks about ‘dark forces’. The abuse on social media can be very co-ordinated.

I tend to let most of the abuse that I receive to slide by and just block.

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Over the past few years I have received continual harassment from one particular account, which almost on a daily basis defamed and lied about my deceased father, told factual untruths about my sister’s murder by the IRA and taunted me for speaking up for victims and my family.

As a result of this person’s tweets others were then encouraged to ‘pile on’ with what I call ‘pop up’ accounts.

These are accounts which are created to tweet as many times as they can in minutes before you block them. They then ‘disappear’.

These accounts say the vilest of things, wishing that I had been shot, that I would choke, issue menacing threats, call misogynistic names.

It is not sometimes what these accounts say that is the most upsetting however the menacing undertone within their tweets. The realisation that these people really hate you and being left concerned for family and my own safety.

For the first time ever I reported a few of these accounts to the police.

This involved having to gather as many screenshots as I could (not necessarily always taken because I’ve just blocked) and having to spend hours in a police station giving my statement, not once but twice. Reliving each of those tweets and the fear that they left within me.

The police then have to contact Twitter in San Francisco (as these accounts are anonymous) and put in place a court order to prevent the tweets or accounts from being deleted.

Then the police in San Francisco apply to the court for the account details to be released. Twitter does not make this easy and say they are working from the American Constitution and their ‘free speech’.

So no matter where in the world you are abused on line and how they clearly meet the criteria of harassment laws of your own country. Twitter say it must meet American laws.

This makes the process even more distressing and can make the victim feel like they are not believed.

It is time, when registering an account on social media that you must verify it.

If people don’t want to display their real name fine. However all account users will know that if there is a complaint regarding abuse or harassment that their local law enforcement will be able to easily get their information.

Ann Travers, Wicklow

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