Wednesday 4 November 2009

Rise of the virtual mob!

Last week it was announced that the actor and comedian Stephen Fry had decided to quit the social networking site Twitter, after someone described one of his 'tweets' as being boring! Fry was quoted as saying "there is too much aggression and unkindness around"

The person who made the comment, a Richard Plum from Birmingham soon found himself the victim of a digital hate campaign from Fry supporters.

Talk about over the top! Plum was only expressing an opinion that was hardly that offensive! But it didn't stop a virtual mob posting over 1800 offensive remarks on his blog!

You speak to most people these days, and they're on some type of social networking site; Facebook, Twitter, Myspace are some of the most commonly known.

Overall these sites can be really good in the sense that they can link people and communities together. You can share, interact and express ideas and opinions with family, friends, and people from all over the world, but there does seem to be another darker side to social networking.

The attacks on Richard Plum were nothing more than a form of organised bullying which he didn't deserve. I'm glad that Stephen Fry actually made an apology and said he'd over-reacted, which of course he did. Why should such an innocuous comment generate so much abuse?

It's interesting though that only a few weeks earlier Fry had been on Twitter urging his followers to attack the Daily Mail journalist Jan Moir following her article on the death of the Boyzone singer Stephen Gately. The article was seen as being homophobic, and having read it I do agree that it was a poor article with a lot of innuendo and unfounded assumptions.

I didn't agree with it, but she was entitled to express her opinion. The reaction on Facebook and Twitter again had two sides to it.

On one side you had people mobilising themselves and arguing against what was seen as a homophobic attack on a dead singer which was all very good and commendable. On the hand though, some of the protests against Moir's article resembled an angry mob, shouting down someone's right to express an opinion.

The internet and social media is seen as a great way of enhancing democracy and giving more people a voice and a platform to express their thoughts, but there's fine line when people then join forces to voice opinions and disagreements that quickly descend into a mob rule that tries to suppress the freedom of speech of others.

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