Toxic on Twitter: should we clamp down on trolls?

Saturday 18 October, 13.20 until 13.40, Garden Room, Barbican Special topical sessions

This Battle Bite session is part of a special series of informal conversations between Battle of Ideas speakers on topics in the news, programmed in the days leading up to the festival to ensure they are as topical as possible. All Battle Bite sessions are free and open to non ticket holders.

In September 2014, it emerged that the Kate and Gerry McCann – the couple whose daughter Madeline disappeared in Portugal in May 2007 – had been themselves the victims of a torrent of online abuse. Sky News found and confronted one of the writers of this abuse, Brenda Leyland. Days later, Leyland was found dead in her hotel room, having apparently committed suicide. In these most bizarre of circumstances, our victim-obsessed media found a rather complex web of oppressed and oppressors.

Should we continue to focus on those who sit in their bedrooms and, under the most infantile of pseudonyms, pour digital vitriol through the web? Is their behaviour so beyond the pale that they must be reined in? Would it be better to ignore them and focus attention on those whose activity has impacts in the real world? Do self-styled troll-hunters, with their calls for censorship and prosecution, do far greater damage than the people they pursue? Instead of being the bastion of freedom that the inventor of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, had in mind – beyond the control of any government or single agency – is the internet now becoming ever more regulated, most often by social-media users themselves?

Listen to the debate:

Laura Raphael
online and social media manager, Simian Publishing

Tom Slater
deputy editor, spiked; coordinator, Down With Campus Censorship!

Jake Unsworth
trainee solicitor, Bond Dickinson; convenor, Debating Matters Ambassadors

Produced by
Jake Unsworth trainee solicitor, Bond Dickinson; convenor, Debating Matters Ambassadors

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