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Big bad web

lifestyle Updated: Aug 10, 2013 17:52 IST
Sneha Mahale
Sneha Mahale
Hindustan Times
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For a long time, trolls were large humanoids of great strength and poor intellect in JRR Tolkien’s fantasy series. That was until social media made its presence felt. Then the big bullies arrived on the World Wide Web and, suddenly, the term became synonymous with them. These new-age villains, even if ignored, often providing amusement to netizens with their rants.

But all that changed in 2013. This year saw trolls on social media evolve into a menace that everyone is having a tough time controlling. Just last week, the UK Twitter boss had to personally apologise to a group of high-profile women who were threatened with death and rape on the micro-blogging site. “I personally apologise to the women who have experienced abuse on Twitter and for what they have gone through,” Tony Wang, general manager of Twitter UK, said on his own Twitter feed, adding, “The abuse they’ve received is simply not acceptable. It’s not acceptable in the real world, and it’s not acceptable on Twitter.”

Facebook has similar issues. A British man was sentenced to more than two years in jail for threatening to kill 200 kids in the US in a post. And the clampdown has begun. Twitter UK said it was adding staff to help handle abuse reports. It also said an in-tweet “report abuse” button available on their Twitter app for iPhones would be added to other platforms. Facebook now releases the identity of trolls ensuring that they can be persecuted in local courts. Here are new threats social media has to deal with.

Bomb Scare: Last week, three female journalists in Europe and a social media manager in the US complained that they had been the subject of bomb threats on the site. They took the threats seriously and approached local law-enforcement agencies.
Threatened: Similarly, Labour MP Stella Creasy and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, who successfully fought for a woman’s face to appear on £10 banknotes in the UK, were targeted with rape threats. American writer Lindy West has earlier written about receiving a slew of sexual threats after she appeared on a TV debate on rape jokes.
Celebrity attack: Trollers are known to launch vicious attacks against celebrities. Some of the more famous victims include Cheryl Cole, Kylie Minogue, Adele and Justin Bieber. In India too, Shah Rukh Khan was forced to leave the micro-blogging website after trolls got to him.
Discrimination: A racist Twitter troll who abused former Cobblers players Adebayo Akinfenwa and Clarke Carlisle has been ordered to pay each footballer £500 (R47,000 approx) in July 2013.
Death Threat: These days, it is not unusual for people to receive death threats on the social networking website. Taylor Swift was sent death threats by trolls for dating One Direction singer Harry Styles.

A woman was robbed in the US after a thief tracked her updates to find out when she would be out. Similarly, in 2012, a woman in Australia was robbed after her daughter posted pictures of a large amount of cash on Facebook.
Privacy: Last month, in Mumbai, a man got in touch with an elderly couple on Facebook after robbing their home. He sent them a friend request.
Censorship: In Mumbai, two girls were jailed after posting and liking a comment in 2012. They had complained about a shutdown in the city. Similarly, a Palestinian man was arrested and jailed for insulting PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook in 2013.
Death threat: A man was jailed for more than two years after he threatened to kill 200 US children on the website in July. Similarly, a US teen was accused of making threats to shoot a New Braunfels kindergarten class on Facebook.
Suicide: A 19-year-old man committed suicide in June following a sarcastic Facebook post about his arrest warrant by the sheriff’s office in the UK.

Other platforms
INSTAGRAM: The company’s policy sets the minimum age at 13 and is working towards enforcing stricter policies to discourage pre-teen users.
GOOGLE GLASS: The game-changing device has already been put to the test even before it has hit shelves. A malicious QR code developed can control all your data.
GMAIL: Spam, phishing, illegal content, copyright infringement and other concerns, Gmail has had to deal with all of these.
GOOGLE: The search engine has been tackling online images of child sexual abuse for and co-operating with local agencies to track abusers. Two high-profile court cases in the UK this year brought the issue to light after offenders were known to have sought child pornography online.