Nabila Ramdani has written this moving piece in The Observer about being subjected to racist abuse on Twitter. As someone who uses Twitter only occasionally I must admit to being truly appalled at the level of, quite frankly, sick sentiment aimed at her. We all understand the value of Twitter and maintaining its free speech and dialogical approach is important. However, this kind of personal, deliberately hurtful and racist abuse should be condemned by all. It is therefore even more shocking that the police have done little in response.
When I first started receiving critical messages from people – via email, underneath my articles on the internet, or on sites like Twitter – I replied. The democratisation of the global media has created a hugely dynamic debating forum, and the majority of those participating are as courteous as they are articulate. I grew up on a council estate renowned for its lawlessness and have reported from war zones. I know exactly how to stand up for myself in fraught situations and will debate anything with anyone.
But when a “whore” hashtag (the device used to signal a discussion on Twitter) appeared against my name, everything changed. What distinguished the two men using the word (and its variations) was not that they wanted an argument, but that they wanted to attack me as viciously as possible. They spiced up their principal insult with as many sexual allusions as they could fit into the 140 characters that Twitter allows.
The senders were not difficult to track down. One has delivered more than 2,000 tweets to date and is linked to a London university. The other is a Conservative party activist from the home counties. He has only 68 followers after sending more than 4,000 tweets, but that is not the point. Both men are conventionally “respectable”, but consider it permissible to fabricate obscene claims about women they have never met, and to re-tweet them to as many of Twitter’s 200 million users as possible….
…If the police started to deal with this increasingly unpleasant problem quickly and fairly, it could be stigmatised in the way that abusive phone calls have been.
Instead, my exchange with Worthington [The assigned officer to this case] made it clear that his force’s view of internet hate crimes extends solely to famous people. If prosecutions supporting much-vaunted anti-racism initiatives attract politically correct headlines, so much the better. Ordinary people, meanwhile, are ignored.