Talksport Twitter boycott – how the brands are fighting back against the trolls

twitter_2094423bYesterday, radio station talkSPORT announced that they would no longer be promoting Twitter. This surprising move came as a response to the broadcaster’s grievance that Twitter had not adequately responded to complaints from their star football pundit Stan Collymore about the racist and threatening abuse he has received on Twitter.

Talksport said it will no longer promote tweets or pundits’ accounts on air or in Sport magazine, nor will tweets be read out on air until the station feels the issue has been sufficiently dealt with, in a show of support with the former Liverpool forward. Could it be that brands fighting back is what makes Twitter listen about the problem of trolling?In a very strongly worded statement, Scott Taunton, talkSPORT chief executive, said:

“We are dismayed at the lack of response and perceived inaction by Twitter. Racist or abusive messages of this nature are illegal and unacceptable.

“We have more than three million Twitter followers across our accounts but we will not promote these until we are satisfied that Twitter is doing its utmost to prevent abuse of this nature. We have a duty of care to all our staff and presenters and until I am satisfied that Twitter is treating this seriously we will no longer promote Twitter accounts or use tweets on-air.

In a statement responding to the criticism, Twitter point out that they now have a ‘Report Abuse’ button. This was brought in after huge media pressure following the stream of abuse feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez was subject to after campaigning to have a woman on a British bank note. Twitter said:

Twitter is an open communications platform. Our priority is that users are able to express themselves, within acceptable limits and, of course, within the law. We cannot stop people from saying offensive, hurtful things on the Internet or on Twitter. But we take action when content is reported to us that breaks our rules or is illegal.

Brands, as we all know, are the bedrock of Twtitter’s growth strategy, and losing trust with them would be devastating for the social network. Furthermore, when the brand is a media company like talkSPORT it is regularly providing free advertising for Twitter but promoting its accounts and tweets, so losing that is a doubly significant blow.

Trolling is a persistent problem online. Just this week I’ve been writing a lot about the allegations made against Lord Rennard, and have personally been subjected to sexist and misogynistic tweets. We all want free and open communications online, and most of the time a block button is sufficient, however networks need to deal much better with the most serious cases. Those are the cases of people who abuse the privilege of an open network, and say threatening or racist things that would result in them being arrested if they were to do the same on the street.

Users having been telling Twitter and others they need to deal with this abuse for ages. Now that big brands are involved, they may finally listen.