Exclusive: Attorney at Law and Digital Marketer Glen Gilmore compares UK and USA social media law in sport
When Team GB diver Tom Daley was the victim of sick trolling, the culprit was removed from Twitter and arrested by police, not an uncommon move within the UK in moves dealing with cyber bullying. Similar acts of racism, homophobia and all round abuse of sporting stars in the UK have also resulted in police action, court appearances and fines as both the authorities and the social networking site work together to police abuse on the social networking site.
This week, FOX Sports' pundit Erin Andrews received death threats and a barrage of abusive tweets from the same user to which Ms. Andrews re-tweeted one particular tweet with: "Why Twitter needs policing". Once the tweet was brought to the attention of the wider public, a Mashable article followed and you would presume that action would be taken by both Twitter and the authorities to put an end to the raft of abusive, threatening tweets. Quite the contrary, the user is still happily tweeting and seemingly nothing has been done to protect Ms. Andrews and fellow users on the site.
As a result we reached out to Glen Gilmore, Attorney at Law and Digital Marketer who served as a municipal prosecutor and, while mayor of Hamilton Township, Mercer County, New Jerseya, as a police director. Mr. Gilmore is somewhat of a social media and law mogul and has been named in Forbes' Top 10 Social Media Influencers as well as setting up the Gilmore Business Network, a social media marketing firm. Speaking exclusively to Anchorfan, Mr. Gilmore told us that the UK has been far more proactive in its policing of social media and that he is surprised that Twitter have not removed Andrews' abuser from Twitter.
"The UK has been far more proactive and aggressive about sanctioning cyberbullies than the U.S. Social media law, however, is evolving around the globe and trying to keep pace with the technologies that drive social media and the networks themselves. The unfortunate case of the cyberbullying against Fox Sport’s @ErinAndrews illustrates the need for better policing against cyberbullies.
"I would think that Twitter would be monitoring its own brand and be following the news of a death threat that has been made against Ms. Andrews from a Twitter account named @hyuncmarti. Despite coverage about the threats, the account of today is still open and unrepentant. Twitter should have closed it down by now.
Most social networks, Twitter included, have procedures to report cyberbullies and will take action against cyberbullies when they are reported. This points to a need for better education about how to respond to online bullies, especially in the social space," said Mr. Gilmore.
While noting that the UK has been working extensively to act upon online abuse, Mr. Gilmore believes that the U.S. isn't far behind while offering some dos and don'ts for the authorities, networks and users to follow in combating trolling. "In the U.S., each states gets to establish its own set of laws and many have adopted new laws that specifically address cyberbullying. Even in the absence of specific laws addressing cyberbullying, traditional laws still make it crime to threaten someone with physical harm or harasses someone through repeated, unwanted contact. Whether you are a sports figure, a newscaster, or simply a regular John or Jane Doe, there are some steps that you should follow if someone makes a threat of physical harm to you on a social network.
"Step one, notify your local police. A lot of police departments have forensic units that that have been trained in policing the cyberspace when asked to do so. Never take a threat of physical harm lightly, whether or not it’s made on Twitter or in real life. Report it to the police and let them help you decide what should be done next. Step two, block the person from following you on your social network. Go to the help section of the social network where the abuse is taking place and it will tell you how to block a person from seeing your content. Step three, report the account as a cyberbully to the social network and they’ll be likely to suspend the account if they are informed about it.
"What not to do? The temptation is to call someone out when they’ve threatened you or have been unkind in someone. Unfortunately, too often, this is exactly the response a stalker or troll wants and is likely to lead to an escalation of the problem," added Gimore.
Gilmore On Overreacting
"I know that some in the UK have wondered if enforcement authorities have been a bit heavy-handed in some of their responses to social networking comments. In this day and age, we have to be vigilant about the words that are said, especially when they involve a threat of violence.
Gilmore On Sports Figures
"Sports figures have a keen opportunity to help stop bullying online by not be bullies themselves and by sharing content about the dangers and resources regarding cyberbullying. When children are the victims of cyberbullying, the consequences can be especially tragic. We all have to communicate that cyberbullying won’t be tolerated and that cyberbullies, when they threaten harm, will be prosecuted and held accountable for the harm they do."