For many of us social networking provides an opportunity to express our views, keep in contact, and stay up to date. But for some people this platform merely stands to provide an outlet for abusive comments and threatening behavior, known as ‘trolling’. It may seem harmless or even entertaining to post negative comments, but when this is broadcast worldwide for all to see the repercussions can be extreme.
Since the opening ceremony caught the attention of over 27 million viewers, Twitter has been filled with Olympic themed trends allowing us to keep track of Team GB’s progress and show our support. As with anything in the public domain there is a risk of cynicism or criticism, and when you’re safely seated behind your computer it may be all too easy. On Monday night this was taken too far, and the backlash against one young Tweeter reached new heights.
Twitter user ‘Rileyy_69’ began posting abusive comments in response to Tom Daley’s 4th place diving result. Rileyy started the online feud by posting “You let your dad down I hope you know that”, which appeared to be a sickening reference to the death of Daley’s father last year. Where some users relish the opportunity for a celebrity response or re-tweet, Rileyy_69 got more than he bargained for. Daley re-tweeted the vile comment saying “After giving it my all…I get idiots sending me this.”
Within hours Rileyy_69’s followers had skyrocketed, as a frenzy of trends and re-tweeting begun, in response to his foulmouthed posts. Fuel was added to the fire as Sky News picked up the story, bringing the Twitter war to the eyes of the public, and enraging supporters of Daley and Team GB.
Although Rileyy offered an apology, this was soon forgotten. Rather than humbly residing from his soapbox, he unleashed a further array of retaliation, including the threat: “I’m going to drown you in the pool…people like you make me sick.”
Alongside the public response Rileyy_69 caught the attention of Twitterati legend Piers Morgan, calling for the suspension of Rileyy from Twitter. He posted that the user was a “vile moron” who was hurling “sickening abuse”. Morgan compared this to the earlier suspension of Guy Adams, and said: “One’s a disgusting slime ball, the other’s a critical journalist.”
On Tuesday morning there was a further update, as it was announced that an arrest had been made following the Twitter feud. Police reports stated that a 17 year old man had been arrested on suspicion of malicious communications. He is accused of sending death threats and abusive comments. According to the reports the police were contacted by a member of the public who identified the suspect behind Rileyy_69’s online antics.
The foolhardy and reckless behavior of this young Tweeter serves as a lesson to us all. It’s one thing to make the most of the growing online platform to express your views, but you never know who could be watching, and where your tweet can land you. In this case – police custody, with an onslaught worthy of Public Enemy #1.