Daleygate: The Olympic scandal exposing the darker side of social networking

On the 30th July, Tom Daley and his partner Pete Waterfield’s performance in the 10m platform syncronized diving event didn’t quite have the outcome that we were all hoping for, but nevertheless, in light of the pressure on the pair they gave an absolutely stellar performance. With the hopes of a nation well known for its fickle nature on their shoulders, Daley and WateRfield stepped up to the plate, or board as it were, and gave it everything they had, just narrowly missing out on the bronze medal. Despite the near miss, the nation’s favourite speedo-clad pretty boy (and what a pretty boy he is!) could still do no wrong, and the messages of support and encouragement on both Facebook and Twitter were testament to his popularity and character. It was refreshing to see these social mediums being used in such a positive manner, and for a while we forgot about the draw backs, and could remember why they were such a good invention in the first place.
Then sadly, it all went wrong.

Along came a wonderful specimen of the the youth of Britain today, showing us what a polite, well-meaning and articulate bunch we are. Or, pehaps not. This person (and I use that word very loosely, believe me) known only by his Twitter name ‘@Rileyy_69’, decided that yesterday was to be his time in the spotlight, and thus launched a personal vendetta against Daley, remembering to incude insults, comments of a personal nature, and death threats; all the ingredients vital to any fledgling hate campaign. His tweet of ‘@TomDaley1994: You let your dad down i hope you know that.’ went nationwide within minutes, with shocked and furious supporters of the 18 year old diver retweeting and replying to the disgusting accusation with gusto, and rightly so. Daley, who lost his 40 year old beloved father to cancer in May 2011, retaliated calmly and with common sense, ‘After giving it my all…you get idiot’s sending me this…RT @Rileyy_69’, voicing the feelings of all his followers, thought it has to be said in sightly less colourful language. Rileyy_69 then followed this up with another barrage of hateful blasts, including the death threat ‘@TomDaley1994 I’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky t**t your a nobody people like you make me sick’. This tweet was met with possibly even more derision and loathing than the last, and even celebrity twitter users got in on the act, with Piers Morgan calling the perpetrator a ‘disgusting slimeball’.

It is occurences such as this which must surely make us question the rise of the online superpower, the social network, Twitter in particular. Sadly, as well as allowing messages of love and friendship, this media platform is also the perfect springboard for the less well meaning of us to get their voices heard on a global scale. They can repeatedly attack an individual with no mercy, for the world to see. Sadly, this is not the first example of such disgusting behaviour towards our Olympians, as back in June two time gold medal winner Rebecca Adlington was the subject of hate tweets about her figure, and thus vowed to ignore Twitter for the duration of the current games. It’s abominable that one of the most brilliantly talented athletes to ever represent our country is being subjected to such petty insults from the most ignorant and underachieving members of our population.

Following the massive public outcry calling for Rileyy_69 to be banned permanently from Twitter, the Dorset police tweeted ‘Regarding tweets to @TomDaley1994 – We are aware of the issue and we are actively looking into it’. It was then released on the morning following the incident that the 17 year old male offender had been arrested in Weymouth and taken into custody, and is facing a £2,500 fine if found guilty under the Malicious Communications Act 1988. It’s of paramount importance that current and future aptly named ‘twitter trolls’ such as Rileyy_69 realise the potential ramifications of their actions in cyberspace, and personally I feel the consequences in this particular case should be significantly more severe in an attempt to reduce this sort of activity. It’s a shameful example of the malicious shades of social networking, and this should definitely be cause for the creators of twitter to take a step back, and look at the potential Frankenstein‘s monster they have given the world. Although as a brilliant communication device and superb invention Twitter is undoubtably here to stay, there should be a serious rethink about the levels of security in the programme, in order to prevent such gross misuse of the right to free speech.

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