A US rapper, known as Tyler the creator, whose lyrics include subjects such as violence, rape fantasies, murder and even necrophilia, recently performed in Australia. A young woman, Talitha Stone, used Twitter to object to the rapper's lyrics for inciting rape and violence against women. She also attended his all-ages concert to gather evidence about his lyrics.
The rapper responded by retweeting her message to his fans and she received a barrage of tweets filled with abusive and violent messages. At Tyler's concert he also launched a verbal attack which Ms Stone described as 'terrifying and disturbing'.
The response of Twitter was lukewarm and certainly did not stop the barrage of tweets. The available complaint procedure with Twitter is that a long form needs to be filled out for each tweet. If you get hundreds of tweets this becomes virtually impossible.
Talitha Stone set up a petition through Change.org, calling for Twitter to have a zero tolerance policy for abuse and violence. In response to the publicity, Ms Stone has received a public apology from Twitter and they have announced plans to change their policy from next month.
Background information to this story
- 'US rapper Tyler the Creator unleashes a torrent of hate on Sydney activist' by Talitha Stone, Daily Life, 7 August 2013
- 'Sydney woman wins Twitter apology over abuse by rapper’s fans', The Australian, 9 August 2013
- 'Trolls prompt Twitter apology', SMH, 10 August 2013
Twitter’s Help Centre: Abusive Behaviour
How can you help bring change?
- Change.org – the world’s petition platform – you can sign petitions or start your own
- @TwitterAU: It’s time for a zero-tolerance to rape threats policy – Talitha Stone’s petition
Responses of Government
The Australian Human Rights Commission ran a Right’s Talk: Human rights responses to online hate, discrimination and bullying on 7 August. If papers are published, we will add a link to them. During this information session, they discussed 'e-bile' or the use of social media to vent hatred and make violent threats. They are keen for a remedy to exist for women such as Talitha Stone against such behaviour. Stay tuned.
ACMA have launched a Digital Citizen's Guide which focuses on encouraging positive behaviours in cyberspace
Other responses to inappropriate or offensive tweets
- The experience of an academic: Recently, in the US, an academic faces the consequences of a recent tweet that was found to be inoffensive. See '140 thoughtless characters cost dear in academia' by Katherine Wheat, The Conversation, 9 August 2013.
- Journalists or 'bloggers' in court: new legislation has been passed in NSW to prevent the reporting of court proceedings through new media such as Twitter without the express permission of the judge. For more details, see our post on this new legislation coming soon!
This use of Twitter is an excellent example of hate crime. The Australian Hate Crime Network has useful information about hate crime, including links to legislation, magazine articles and case studies.
For more information about Twitter, Cyberlaw and Cybercrime, see the following Research Guides: