We want our freedom! Except when it offends…

garysmells.jpgThe South Wales Echo are up to their usual tricks again. Clearly the person who comissioned this article is neither a rights or technology specialist.

Todays “shocker” is that somebody has been allowed to create a group on the popular social networking website Facebook that is offensive to a particular individual.
Dubbed the ‘Gemma Trigg Cheap Tart Club’, the group was created by the wife of a man that Ms Trigg allegedly got involved with. Obviously, she thinks that this is below the belt, but, cheap tart or not, the view of Ms Trigg, and evidently of the Echo, having chosen to publish the story and tell it from her perspective, is that Facebook should not have allowed the group to be created in the first place.

“I was shocked that … Facebook would allow them to put that on their site.”

Facebook is frequented by millions of users worldwide, I have to say, even I make sure I log on at least once a day.
How does this lady suppose they police what is going on within the community and what all of their users are doing all of the time?

Being a webmaster myself, and previously one of a popular forum, I can tell you that it is a big job if your website serves even more than a hundred frequently active users.
It would involve going through all posts made and threads created, in the case of Facebook, it would involve going through all of the;

  • wall posts made
  • groups created
  • group posts made
  • events created
  • even posts made
  • profile updates (someone could have written something offensive there to try to trick the Facebook police)
  • status updates (again, sneaky trickery)

And this would have to be done for all of its users, all 34 million of them.
Suppose each of them made just one change every day, this would involve 34 million checks having to be done. It surely couldn’t be done by a script, because there are far too many variables and the possibility of false positives would be astronomical which would degrade the usability of the site. If you set a list of words which, in order to be used on the website, had to be moderated first by a member of the Facebook team, the volume would still be absurd and completely unworkable. The site would then become completely user un-friendly as the waiting times for things to show up would fall into days, if not weeks or months, instead of instant and convenient as it is now.
A new website, which is just like Facebook, but without all the restrictions would then become the popular alternative for fed-up Facebook users and once again they are free to offend en-masse.

Do we want to be part of an internet where all of our actions are checked by a team of lawyers before they are accepted for publication? I’m not sure that is compatible with the whole ethos of social networking. The majority of uses of the site are legitimate, productive and are of great use to the subscribers of the content. If one person decides to slander another using a website or service that is open to the public, why should the creators or hosts be accountable for them? If I was to write ‘Tom is a twat’ on a cubicle wall in a toilet at the train station, should the station be held accountable because they have cubicles which can be used as an open stage for slander? If this whole ‘Gemma Trigg is a tart’ thing was being passed around by email instead of being hosted on a website, would she want the email provider (ie. Virgin Media, Hotmail, Yahoo, BT) to be reprimanded, because they allowed this email to be sent through their servers?

By means of a test, I have taken the Echo on with a challenge. If Facebook really should not have allowed a user to create such an insulting group, should the icWales forums have allowed me to create such an insulting thread?
[Edit: ICWales (South Wales Echo website) forums deleted the thread, named ‘Daniel Grosvenor is a fat, pie eater’, after approx 24 hours]

Cardiff has an extremely active community within Facebook, with groups existing for things as zany as our well known street people, like shakey hands man, Ninjah and Toy Mic Trev to friends of Clwb Ifor Bach and constituents of Cardiff Central, to name but a few.
Why does the South Wales Echo not run a story about amazing effect that Facebook and other websites are having on our city, by allowing us all to interact with each other in a way that we have never been able to before?
To share ideas, likes, dislikes and opinions, which I believe will make us a better city for the future.
It will shape the way we vote, as our political representatives have embraced it an are able to be interacted with at the push of a button.
It will shape our views, as city residents share thoughts about decisions made by the council and companies who are devisive in the radical changes that our city is currently going through.
Why has the local rag of Europe’s fastest growing capital city chosen to focus on the minor flaws caused by a minority when new media is doing so much to help grow it?

Regardless, to have written to a local newspaper about this attempt at slander, Ms Trigg has most definitely made the issue far worse for herself. Yesterday, 65 people were in a ‘hate club’ on a website, today, the whole of South Wales knows that there are 65 people who are of the opinion that some woman is a tart. In the article, the creator of the group is mentioned briefly, but the main text is of comments that have been copied and pasted from the group (none of which are objective), thus the contents of the group which have been completely wiped, since it had been removed before the paper went to press, can now be read, in print, by thousands of people who would not otherwise have seen it, and potentially millions online as the article is also published on the icWales website. The choice to publicise has most definitely backfired in this case.

So, through all of this, we now know that 65 people seem to think that Gemma Trigg is a cheap tart, but since the start of this fiasco, 5 now think she is a reasonably priced pastry.

I’ll leave you to work out the average.

I was bullied and humiliated on net‘ – icWales

10 Comments

  1. “Thankfully, I have a close family who have given me a lot of support and I have spoken to my managers at work to explain the situation and they are all behind me.�

    This bit really gets to me. It troubled her THAT much, yet she’s prepared to tell the whole country (and, potentially, WORLD) about it and its contents.

    A very well-written blog, sir, and if you haven’t already, you need to write a publishable letter to The Echo pointing out how you used their own forums for such abuse, and so they subsequently should just shut down their forums (because the potential for critical comments is clearly more dangerous than anything positive that could arise from a forum :p )

    Just don’t send it to the loveable Ben Glaze.

  2. I saw that group, i don’t know Gemma Trigg, neither do most of the people in that group. A group is so meaningless anyway, I’m a member of the group mr whitcutt is a legend but that doesn’t actually mean I think that statement is true silly fuckwits

  3. Just to let you know that I did not go to the press, nor was the guy married, and it’s much easier to find 65 people that dont know you to say bad things about you than it is to find 50 people to say nice things about you that dont know you. My brother’s friend put the pastry group on to make me feel better since after reading about my humiliation in the paper I was more than devastated so thanks for adding to it. It wasnt the group title that hurt it was the comments on there – not the ones about me but the ones about my family and my son, I hope you never have to read or hear about people saying terrible things about a member of your family especially one of your children I can assure you it is not nice

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