Belfast Telegraph

Stan Collymore Twitter row: Police probe race hate taunts allegedly sent from user in Dungannon

Football star urges social media firm to act Vile tweets provoke a storm of protest

BY CHRIS KILPATRICK

Racist messages allegedly sent by a Northern Ireland teenager to former Liverpool footballer Stan Collymore are being investigated by the PSNI.

A number of abusive messages were posted from the Twitter account of the Dungannon-based youth, including vile racist slurs.

The most recent was sent on Tuesday night and referred to the ex-England striker as a "black b******" and "banana eating monkey n*****."

It was retweeted dozens of times by outraged local users of the popular social media network, and referred to by Collymore during a national radio show yesterday.

The PSNI yesterday confirmed it was investigating the messages.

They appear to have been sent from the Co Tyrone town by a youth whose name is featured.

Despite the racist nature of the messages, a background picture showed legendary boxing star Muhammad Ali, who battled racism at the height of his boxing career.

The site was removed yesterday.

The tweet from Northern Ireland was one of a flood of abusive messages sent to Collymore in recent days, which prompted him to call on Twitter to do more to combat so-called trolling.

Collymore – who now works as a radio broadcaster – retweeted several of the messages to highlight the abuse.

Collymore wrote to his 500,000 followers on Twitter: "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?"

The 42-year-old 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."

Twitter said it took action against targeted abuse that was reported to it.

The abuse began when Collymore suggested current Liverpool star Luis Suarez dived to earn a penalty in a match last Saturday.

Staffordshire Police also confirmed it was investigating a number of messages.

A man was previously jailed for abusive messages he sent to Collymore and another ordered to do community service.

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

He 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.

A PSNI spokesman said: "Police in Dungannon are aware of abusive comments posted on social media in relation to an individual. Enquiries are continuing."

QUOTES

"You would be surprised at how many people, and I think particularly people that watch too many American soap operas, claim it's a freedom of speech issue. Well yes, in theory you should be able to say exactly what you like but if you came up and said exactly the same things to me in the street or at a football match or at a theatre, you would be arrested" – Stan Collymore

Site claims it does tackle online abuse

BY MATTHEW COOPER

Twitter has insisted it has clear processes to help the police tackle racist abuse after former England footballer Stan Collymore was subjected to death threats online.

Collymore, who works as a pundit for radio station Talksport, has asked Staffordshire Police to investigate "horrific" racist tweets.

The former Liverpool, Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest striker claims children as young as 10 are being "goaded" by adults into posting racist and sexist tweets.

The 43-year-old star has also accused Twitter of having poor age verification procedures and of "hiding behind" claims that it is unable to comment on individual cases.

In a statement issued via its own site, Twitter told users: "Direct, targeted abuse and specific threats of violence are against our rules.

"You can let us know if you see abusive tweets by using the new 'report tweet' button or through our online forms."

Twitter said its trust and safety team, which is being increased in size, worked 24 hours a day to respond to reports of abusive tweets.

Twitter's statement added: "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.

"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."

Collymore used his Twitter account yesterday to urge the social media site to do more to combat internet "trolls".

The broadcaster contacted police after receiving a spate of racially offensive messages.

Having attracted more than 500,000 followers on Twitter over the past six years, Collymore received the latest in a string of abusive messages after criticising Liverpool striker Luis Suarez following last Saturday's match against Aston Villa.

The ex-footballer said: "The age user range of Twitter has gone down dramatically. I am seeing gangs of kids from ten to 18 goaded by adults to make racist, and homophobic and sexist insults on Twitter, so Twitter need to deal with it. It's quite horrific.

"I have no problem with people discussing factual things about me on Twitter.

"If it's illegal, I reserve the right as a United Kingdom citizen to live within the laws of the United Kingdom and so should Twitter."

Asked how he had responded to the abusive messages, Collymore said: "I retweet, I report, I block and if it is sufficiently threatening, I will go to the police.

"I have been on it (Twitter) for six years now and it's a fantastic tool to engage in my sport, football, with fans.

"If you disagree with a point that I make it's absolutely fine.

"But I shouldn't be racially abused for it, I shouldn't have somebody that tweets me two days ago saying I am going to turn up at your house and murder you."

Staffordshire Police said: "We've been in contact with Mr Collymore to get more information and to reassure him that we will carry out a thorough and detailed investigation."

My view: Vigilance a must for users

BY JOANNE SWEENEY

In many ways, Twitter has made life a level playing field for bullies and their victims.

It doesn't matter what size, age, sex, sexual orientation or ethnicity you are – we all can act and talk tough on social media.

It's so easy to threaten and to denigrate, particularly if you are a fast texter and if you have an alias profile that you can hide behind.

There's a very thin line between vigorous, passionate debate, which effectively fuels Twitter, and overstepping the mark to bullying, threats and abuse that constitutes crimes that can be legally prosecuted.

Celebrities embraced social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat as direct, fast, unencumbered conduit to engage with old and new friends.

As did many of the rest of us.

Twitter and Facebook gives us little folk a chance to have our voices heard.

The relative ease of using social media can make us more righteous in our opinions, gives strength to our anger while acting as an unrelenting mirror to the ugly inside of us.

I remember my rage and disgust when my youngest daughter was 'fraped' by a so-called friend when she was aged 15.

The 'fraping' – even the amalgamation of the words rape and Facebook is odious – entailed someone hacking into her account and posting that she was confirming all the rumours, that she was pregnant.

It later turned out to have been done by a lad who had a bit of a fancy for her. He also posted an ultrasound image of a pregnancy.

While she was naturally upset about this, possibly even more because of my ranting and threats of legal action against him and his parents, it didn't actually wound her as much as it did me.

And that's the problem with social media, while its power for good is unlimited, so is the potential for harm and destruction of people's reputations and feelings of personal safety, self-esteem and wellbeing.

Despite what may seem to be an intimate chat between you and your friends on Twitter, users need to be constantly aware that it is a public, enduring, traceable communication channel. As the old legal adage caveat emptor goes, 'let the buyer beware' so then, let the social media user beware.

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