If one was enjoying a pint in a pub or a casual stroll in a park and all of a sudden a motley bunch of cruel antagonists were to pounce with verbal abuse and barrages of weakling insult and threat, the police would jump pretty sharpish.
Not so it seems, at least where the much lowered tone and corruption of Berners-Lee intent is concerned. These pornographers of free speech can provoke suicides, breakdowns, destruction of reputations at will and all with a uniquely derisive impunity.
Democracy in action? It is time is it not, for a fresh look at these new 21st Century multi-headed monsters?
In recent times the media has been beside itself with the rampant pillaging of civilised behaviour by those who seek to make sexism, raw intimidation and vicious personal attack, veritable art forms.
All is not lost however. Readers will remember that only a few weeks ago I interviewed Dyfed Powys Police Crime Commissioner, Christopher Salmon. Following my interview, his office advise me that the Commissioner is going to discuss a new initiative with other PCC’s in an attempt to consider the potential for an online police presence tasked with patrolling internet trolling activity. Could these “twitter-beats” be the 21st century panda car equivalent of days gone by? One can only hope (or maybe not, to those of us who are old enough to remember them!), but it is at least a start.
On a personal note, my own address is now totally anonymous where the electoral roll is concerned. A Dyfed Powys police superintendent had to sign a five year anonymity authority following threats and relentless daily abuse and smear.
Be in no doubt that these new internet warriors will have their work cut out. Expecting Twitter and Facebook to moderate each and every comment would be comparable to trying to fertilise a fictional TV hanging garden of Babylon, but a high visibility online police patrol would certainly deter, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights when trolls are at fever pitch. Such an approach has worked to pacify the weekend carnivals of boozed up revelry in our towns and cities, why not the internet?
It would also dissuade any opportunistic trolling and compel the police to take action against persistent offenders. Of course, as with all demands on police time, one has to be realistic. The police simply do not have the manpower to patrol every public space, be it cyber or otherwise, but the busiest and most troublesome online areas and locations could be policed. Indeed they should be policed full stop, if online terror trolls are to be brought to book.
The above is not an attack on freedom of speech, neither is it a Leveson-like witch hunt. It is however an attempt to invoke laws which are already on the statute books and make them more effective eg hate crime, harassment etc. More importantly it is about what we as citizens of a United Kingdom are prepared to tolerate.
Should we condone the bullying of innocent youngsters into suicide? Should we rubber stamp profoundly vicious attempts to turn decent democratic principles on their heads? And lastly, why should we allow these low-life, poisoned parasites get away with it?
Julian Ruck is an author, columnist and Freedom of Information campaigner. He also makes contributions to both Welsh and national broadcasting and media
Tags: Christoper Salmon, Dyfed Powys, internet trolls, Julian Ruck, Letter from Wales, police and crime commissioners, Twitter