In Australia, television celebrity Charlotte Dawson has recently been hospitalized twice because of suicide attempts that were blamed, in part, on trolls inundating her with abuse on Twitter. Whether or not the trolling was responsible for Dawson’s suicide attempts, Julia Baird argues that something needs to be done about online trolls. Specifically she recommends that users should:
Encourage Twitter to keep a record of those who are blocked for bullying; if a certain number is reached, delete accounts. If persistently savage, violent attacks occur, there should be consequences. There must be a way to punish serial bullies without triggering the possibility of broad censorship.
That, of course, is an awful idea since it would take about 5 seconds for the folks who controls hundreds of thousands of fake Twitter accounts to realize they have a quick way to remove any Twitter account. Instead of preventing bullying behavior, such a simplistic solution would quickly enhance and enable the trolls.
Instead, Twitter seems like one of the few cases where something the like a Real Time Blackhole List could be useful. Twitter already has a Lists feature that allows users to assemble lists of users, typically related to subject categories (top soccer players, famous atheists, etc.)
Why not take that a step further and allow me to turn the people I am blocking into a list that others can subscribe to and, if they wish, in turn block anyone I block.
There are few people whose judgment I’d trust enough to automatically block, but there are some. I’d like to automatically block anyone that my wife and a few trusted friends block. Moreover, once such a feature was implemented, there would certainly be Twitter accounts created to serve as a Real Time Block List for Twitter which users could decide for themselves whether to trust or not.
This would not, of course, eliminate trolls or all abuse on Twitter, but it would have the advantage of being at least as effective as Baird’s solution while still offering a solution that errs on the side of free speech.