Social Media

Collymore quits Twitter. But why do sports personalities attract online trolls?

CollymoreIn the last couple of weeks, footballers and Olympic athletes have come under attack from online trolls, often through Twitter.  Now, former footballer Stan Collymore has accused Twitter of not doing enough to combat abusive messages or taking action against those responsible. He’s even pulled the plug on his own Twitter account, deleting all but the his last few tweets.

Collymore, now a radio pundit for talkSPORT, made a suggestion that Liverpool striker Luis Suarez dived to earn a penalty in Saturday’s match against Aston Villa. Almost immediately Collymore began to receive offensive messages from fans, some of which were racist and others, he says, threatened murder.

Collymore has since accused Twitter directly of “not doing enough to combat racist/homophobic/sexist hate messages, all of which are illegal in the UK” but that “Several Police forces have been fantastic.”

On the BBC’s Breakfast programme, Collymore added that police forces were “banging their heads against a brick wall” because Twitter was not “furnishing them with the information” about users they now wanted to investigate.”

Speaking about Twitter providing a forum for debate, he said, “If we disagree… absolutely fine, but I shouldn’t be racially abused for it, I shouldn’t have somebody that tweets me two days ago saying, ‘I’m going to turn up at your house and murder you'”.

talkSPORT have also waded in to the row and have announced plans to boycott the social media platform and no longer promote Twitter or make use of its own accounts.

Collymore has been the victim of online trolls before. Two years ago, two law students sent racist abuse to him, again via Twitter.  Following that incident, one of the tweeters was given a jail sentence of 52 days.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Beth Tweddle was the target of abuse as she appeared on a Sky Sports question and answer session about women in sport.  Using the hashtag #sportswomen, some users tweeted insults and offensive sexual remarks to the Olympic gymnast.

In recent months a man who sent racist tweets to former Rangers football players was jailed for six months and in 2012, another student was jailed for 56 days for racially offensive comments made after Fabrice Muamba suffered a cardiac arrest during a football match.

Twitter has previously said that while it did not comment on individual users, targeted abuse was against its rules.  Following abuse sent to MP Stella Creasey and Caroline Criado-Perez,  the social media site has made it easier for users to report abuse by including a report button on each of its mobile and desktop platforms.

Staffordshire Police confirmed it was investigating the abuse sent to Stan Collymore, but given the high threshold set by the DPP in its guidance it seems unlikely that those without celebrity status and the popular support it can bring will be able to see online trolls dealt with to their satisfaction, if at all.

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