Cameron demands Brits BOYCOTT angry-troll-infested websites
The 'off' button is a great regulator, apparently
Prime Minister David Cameron has told Brits to "boycott" websites that allow trolls and bullies to publish reams of nasty abuse and threats with wild abandon.
His comments came after the father of 14-year-old Hannah Smith claimed his daughter, who had been bullied on Lativan-based ask.fm, had killed herself to escape the online harassment.
The PM, who was talking to the BBC this morning, said the bullying was "absolutely tragic" and added that "it's not the case there's nothing we can do simply because it's online".
He issued a cliche-ridden warning to social networks, in which he demanded that they "step up to the plate" and "clean up their act". Ideally, he wants the websites to allow people to block abusive netizens.
Hannah is not the first teenager to have taken her own life after being bullied online, but the timing of her death is significant: it came in the wake of a media frenzy around rape and death threats lobbed at high-profile women on Twitter, who subsequently reported the harassment to the police.
"Just because something's done online it doesn't mean it's legal. If you incite hatred, if you incite violence, that's a crime whether you do it in a television studio, on a soapbox or online and so these people can be chased," Cameron said.
He urged Brits to simply "boycott" websites that fail to "sort themselves out".
Cameron ... Troll hunting season is upon us
The PM added that parents have always been in control of what television programmes their children should view. "The 'off' button is a great regulator," he said.
In recent months, however, Cameron has taken a much closer interest in the material families across the UK consume online.
He had previously insisted that parents should police the content to which their kids have access on the internet by using software packages provided by telcos. But, now that the country's biggest ISPs have all agreed to introduce network-level filters in a move to avoid formal regulation, the PM is arguably using the policy shift as political currency to please Middle England in the lead up to 2015's General Election.
Cameron told the Beeb today:
We're also looking as a government at how we can help parents and children with the internet with this whole issue of the filters that are on when you sign a new broadband account. Obviously, the filters you are able to set up might be able to stop access to certain sites such as those involved in self harm or pornography.
He stopped short, however, of suggesting that similar controls should be applied to social networks. It was nonetheless interesting that he noted the website-blocking plans in a conversation about online harassment.
Twitter was forced earlier this week to apologise to a number of the women who were bombarded with sick taunts and threats by users of the micro-blogging site. The company added that it planned to hire more staff to axe accounts that breach its rules by using the service to harass others.
It also reiterated that netizens need to comply with those rules if they wanted to continue to use the site. ®