Freedom of speech must have a name.

by John Darvall

What of the internet and what have we learnt? We are way off knowing the internet’s power but we are seeing a small taste of what it can do. One thing is for certain. Something urgently needs to be done about social media, and quickly, before it gets really out of control. So what do you and I now know?

Trolls do not live under a bridge or lurking in the bogs at Hogwarts a la Harry Potter. And bullies are not Gripper Stepson in the corner of the school playground waiting to call you ‘fatty’, steal your lunch money or preparing to give you a Chinese burn or dead leg at break time. Trolls and bullies lurk on the internet, waiting for you to say something or be something they don’t like. Then they strike.

If you think the internet is free then not only are you stupid but you are naïve too. It is not. It costs. You and I have seen this in last few weeks as a young girl paid the ultimate price to the 21st bully. And a Bristol man has been arrested for his alleged part in the trolling of two women on twitter. It costs.

So what is the answer? It is simple. Those who hide behind silly names on the internet and on social media are hiding from you. It has to stop. They have no right to claim freedom of speech or freedom of expression. If you want free speech then you have to put your full identity to it and stand by the full consequences of what you say. Freedom and the right to it is not something you hide behind some stupid identity. If you really mean it be real and true then say it as you see it. But be prepared to face the full consequences of what you say.

Twitter, Facebook or any other social networking site no more needs security buttons or panic buttons than the BBC needs another scandal. What these sites need is the verified and displayed identity of every user, with their full name and location on display for all to see. Then freedom of speech can be about what it should be, open and honest thoughts and debate not some bully using the 21st century version of the school playground.

One last point. If someone says something outrageous in the pub, it is they who are at fault not the pub. Same goes for social media. Ask Sally Bercow.