The currently breaking story of the Twitter troll who has been arrested after he sent horrifically offensive tweets has really caught my attention this morning. The incident caught the world's (for world's, read Twitter's) attention when he tweeted Olympic diver Tom Daley.
Since the Troll was highlighted, there's been a big mix of reactions. Some people saying they were thrilled to see him brought to answer for his actions, but some surprised me by scoffing at the seriousness with which this situation has been taken.
I'm all for pushing a joke as far as you can. I certainly wouldn't describe myself as a fan of heavy censorship. However, I think there's a big difference between joking, and aiming abuse at someone. Some comparisons have been made between this incident and the Twitter joke trial. I can see why, however, the big difference in my opinion is that this tweet was sent directly to someone with an intention for them to see it.
I find it highly unbelievable that Paul Chambers (Twitter Joke Trial) believed that anyone would take his tweet seriously, or that the powers that be at Robin Hood Airport would see it and act upon it. It was a reaction, published personal reaction not a delivered statement of malice. The troll in the Tom Daley case had sent his direct message personally to the young diver. To me that shows a remarkable statement of perverse intent that shouldn't be ignored as a huge differentiating factor.
I do believe that by putting yourself in the public eye you open yourself up to criticism as well as praise for what you do. But, while you have to understand that not everyone's going to love you, you don't have to be bullied online just because it feels more anonymous to the person putting the abuse out there.
Since I started doing comedy I've dealt with the highs and lows of social media attention, and I wouldn't even say I was anywhere near in the spotlight or the height of my game. I've received attention from people who've seen me gig that's made me genuinely scared to go to gigs by myself in case they turn up. While I'm prepared to be told I'm not funny, I'm not cool with being intimated into stopping. The only thing that will stop me doing comedy is me (and low ticket sales/bad reviews/never getting an open spot at The Glee).
While, having researched this particular Troll's twitter feed, I am pretty convinced he doesn't deserve jail (probably a cuddle and some self esteem) I do think it can only be a positive thing for the world if people start understanding that celebrities/athletes/midget comedians are still people too and there's a good chance that negativity you send their way will reach them. By all means have an opinion, hate them and criticise them, but if you're going to publish it then don't publish it by nailing it to their front door. Create a balanced summation of your thoughts and put it out there for consideration - even 140 characters is long enough for the vast majority of Trolls to have an introduction, main argument and a conclusion.