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Twitter’s potential for online abuse

on May 28 in trends, Twitter posted by

It’s a shame when a useful tool such as Twitter becomes a means for online harrassment and abuse. And it’s of even greater concern when the creators of the tool seem to condone such action.

This seems to have been the case in the instance of Ariel Waldman who according to a report on the blog ArsTechnica “became the subject of what she characterizes as harassing ‘tweets.’”

It might seem amusing that one could feel harrassed in 140 characters or less, but Waldman’s concerns over the revealing of her name and email address and “disturbing comments” resulted in a dialog between her and Twitter execs whose responses seem less than commendable.

The truly disturbing aspect of this tete a tete is that Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey (Twitter co-founder and CEO respectively) took a hands-off position. Rather than close the (ab)user’s account (which has since been removed voluntarily), they instead revised Twitter’s TOS to allow the closing of such accounts in future.

While free speech is always to be supported and is rightfully protected, it is questionable whether an online service should permit users to engage in what is libellous action. If such garbage were published in a newspaper, the victim would surely have a legal right to seek damages. I’m not a lawyer, but perhaps Twitter managers should fully consider the implications before taking such a laissez-faire approach to the way their service is used.

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