Ex-footballer Collymore accuses Twitter over abusive messages

  • 22 January 2014
  • From the section UK
Media captionSpeaking to the BBC on Wednesday, Collymore said police were "banging their heads against a brick wall" because of the way Twitter operates

Former footballer Stan Collymore has accused Twitter of not doing enough to combat abusive messages after he was targeted by internet trolls.

The broadcaster has retweeted some of the offensive messages he has received since he suggested Liverpool striker Luis Suarez dived to earn a penalty in Saturday's match against Aston Villa.

Staffordshire Police confirmed it was investigating.

Twitter said it took action against illegal or rule-breaking content.

'Thorough investigation'

Mr Collymore, a former Liverpool player who now works as a pundit for radio station TalkSport, wrote to his 505,000 Twitter followers: "In the last 24 hours I've been threatened with murder several times, demeaned on my race, and many of these accounts are still active. Why?"

He later added: "I accuse Twitter directly of not doing enough to combat racist/homophobic/sexist hate messages, all of which are illegal in the UK."

In another tweet he wrote: "Several Police forces have been fantastic. Twitter haven't. Dismayed."

The 42-year-old told the BBC he received "filthy racist abuse" from two law students on Twitter two years ago, for which one was jailed and one was ordered to do community service.

But he said police forces were now "banging their heads against a brick wall" because Twitter was not "furnishing them with the information" about users they now wanted to investigate.

"All it's doing is providing a vacuum for anti-semitic abuse, racist abuse, homophobic abuse, sexist abuse, anti-disability abuse," he said.

Mr Collymore said he had been contacted on Twitter by gay and lesbian people who have received "horrific abuse" and said Twitter had a responsibility to act on illegal tweets.

He said he wanted to use Twitter to debate subjects including football.

"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'," he said.

"I mean this is just sheer lunacy and Twitter at the moment, I don't think they know what to do."

In a statement, 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."

It said it had features which allowed people to block accounts from following them, "unfollow" accounts and filter replies - to put them in control of what they see on Twitter.

The statement went on: "We also have a clear process for working with the police and are in ongoing communication with relevant UK police forces to make sure they are aware of our policies."

Mr Collymore, whose former clubs also include Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest and Southend United, said Staffordshire Police had been to see him for the fifth time regarding the tweets.

Chief Inspector Carl Ratcliffe, from the force, said: "Sadly some people mistakenly believe that anything said or done on Twitter or Facebook somehow doesn't count, they think it doesn't matter because it's not face-to-face. They are very wrong.

"Tweeting abuse is a very personal way of causing distress to someone, and it doesn't matter if the person is famous or not."

He added that their investigation into Mr Collymore's case was "very much ongoing" and said they were keeping the former footballer updated.

Twitter 'hiding'

Broadcaster Piers Morgan was also subjected to abusive tweets after he called for the police and Twitter to take action over the offensive tweets aimed at Mr Collymore.

Mr Morgan singled out tweets by some Twitter users then added: "I repeat, racist abuse & death threats both criminal offences in UK. So keep spewing it, trolls, and I will have you ALL dealt with."

Twitter said that while it did not comment on individual users, targeted abuse was against its rules and it had recently made it easier for users to report abuse.

The company has "established processes in place for working with law enforcement" a spokesman added.

But Mr Collymore said Twitter was "hiding behind" its rules about not commenting on individual cases.

Image caption Beth Tweddle was the subject of abusive comments on Twitter

In a recent high profile case, a man and a woman pleaded guilty to sending menacing tweets to Caroline Criado-Perez, who campaigned for a woman to appear on new bank notes. They are due to be sentenced on Friday.

The abuse received by both Ms Criado-Perez - which included rape threats - and MP Stella Creasy resulted in Twitter updating its rules and saying it would introduce an in-tweet "report abuse" button on all platforms, including desktops.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Olympic gymnast Beth Tweddle was targeted by some Twitter users as she appeared on Sky Sports News to answer questions about women in sport.

Using the hashtag #sportswomen, some users tweeted insults and offensive sexual remarks.

Olympic diver Tom Daley said the best way to deal with internet trolls was to ignore them.

Daley, 19, has been the victim of social media abuse in the past - during London 2012 after finishing fourth in the 10m synchronised diving final, and again following the announcement that he was in a relationship with a man last month.

Asked if Twitter should be doing more about abusive posts, he said: "I don't know what Twitter are doing behind the scenes so I can't really comment on that, but I know that any experiences that I've had have been sorted pretty quickly."

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