Social Media

David Cameron Supports Boycott of Sites That Don't Tackle Abuse Online

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Credit: ask.fm

British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for people to boycott websites that do not "step up to the plate" and deal with abuse online.

Cameron's comments (shown in the video below) came shortly after a 14-year-old girl killed herself after being bullied on the site ask.fm.

In the last few weeks there has been a renewed debate concerning abuse on the Internet in the U.K. A few weeks ago Cameron announced plans that when implemented would mean Internet users in the U.K. would have to opt in if they want to view pornography.

Recently, plans to put Jane Austen on the new £10 note prompted some twitter users to issue murder and rape threats to a member of parliament and feminists who supported the change. Three arrests have been made in connection to the abuse.

In response to the latest Twitter controversy some called for the social media site to introduce a "report" button, which would allow users to report abusive behavior. Twitter already has such a button for its iPhone app and has introduced a similar feature for users of its Android app in the U.K. The move, although perhaps well intended, has worrying implications, as Alex Deane from the U.K.-based think tank Big Brother Watch recently tried to explain to feminist Cathy Lette (video below).

Individuals are of course free to boycott sites where people can be bullied, and it is reassuring that Cameron did not come out in favor of any legislation to crack down on cyber bullies. As Alex Dean pointed out, it is already illegal to make rape and murder threats online in the U.K. As unpleasant as the recently highlighted threats and suicide are there is no need for the government to get more involved.

For more on Twitter and how it deals with abuse check out Greg Beato's article "Twitter: Free Speech in 140 Characters" from our March 2013 issue, in which the differences between Twitter's policy towards content and the content policies of other social media sites are highlighted:

Twitter, in contrast, governs in much less proscriptive fashion. "All Content, whether publicly posted or privately transmitted, is the sole responsibility of the person who originated such Content," its TOS reads. "We may not monitor or control the Content posted via the Services and, we cannot take responsibility for such Content. Any use or reliance on any Content or materials posted via the Services or obtained by you through the Services is at your own risk." In its Rules section, Twitter reaffirms this hands-off policy: "We do not actively monitor user's content and will not censor user content, except in limited circumstances."

Those limited circumstances mostly involve impersonating other people or disclosing their private and confidential information, committing trademark violations or copyright infringement, and posting "direct, specific threats of violence against others." Harvey elaborates: "You cannot say to a specific person, 'I'm coming over to your house right now with a baseball bat to kill you.'?" 

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  1. David Cameron does not look anything like a…wait a minute, is he a lawyer?

  2. David Cameron hates 99.99% of all websites?

    That’s a lot of fucking hate.

    1. Also, no link to his Jezebel account?

    2. No, he’s being tolerant by hating anyone who disagrees with him. Because if you disagree then you are intolerant, and tolerant people do not tolerate intolerance.

  3. Bo Cara is David Cameron?

    1. That sounds an awful lot like bullying and Reason seems to be doing nothing about it.

      BOYCOTT REASON!

    2. I haven’t seen Bo Cara lately. I halfway assumed he was a Tulpa sock.

      1. Seems to be on at night a lot.

      2. Or, he could be our old friend Minge.

        Has the same passive aggressive socratic arguing style that bogs people down in quibbles over inconsequential details or semantics.

        Wait a minute, was Minge Tulpa?

  4. Tolerant people do not tolerate intolerance.

  5. I don’t understand…

    If someone says mean things about me on the Internet, I can always choose not to go to the website…

    Why commit suicide over it? It’s like punishing the post office because people commit suicide after getting a Dear John letter.

    Tsk.

    1. But, your right to not be offended!

      /sic

    2. Psh, the mental problems which would cause someone to off themselves were not caused by random idiots online. The question goes to the family with regards to why they didn’t notice their daughter’s mental state.

      Anyone of normal (and often abnormal mind) should be able to resist internet barbs.

  6. NPR recently did a breathless report on bullying and twitter. Then they immediately segued into a concern story about bloggers being arrested overseas.

    1. They’re not too self aware, Paul. And besides, that’s what you get for listening to NPR.

    2. Twitter is a communications medium designed for 14 year old girls, so it’s almost inevitable that bullying will happen via it.
      And the more time people spend on Twitter they more they start acting like 14 year old girls.

      1. That explains Shrike and Tony.

  7. Recently, plans to put Jane Austen on the new ?10 note

    ???

    “All Content, whether publicly posted or privately transmitted, is the sole responsibility of the person who originated such Content,” its TOS reads.

    Let’s see how well this holds up before one of our fine nanny-state judges.

  8. From the video….”Of course I have the right to speak on behalf of all women…”.

    My jaw dropped. No, sorry, you don’t.

    1. DON’T WATCH THE VIDEO. You’ll want to kill yourself if you do.

      If you don’t support her point of view then you’re a misogynist who hates women – even if you’re a woman.

    2. Is that from the feminist one? I love how authoritarian and sexist modern feminism actually is.

      ‘We have the right to speak for all women since they all think alike! Also, women only care about political issues related to their vaginas! ARE YOU FEELING EMPOWERED YET!’

      1. This is why there are no libertarian women!

        1. I’m now convinced libertarian women are like the Last of the Mohicans. We’ve all either killed ourselves, embraced the suck that is Cathy Lette, or retreated to the sausage-fest that is the comment section of H&R.

          1. I’ve met many libertarian women. They just generally don’t post on H&R because Warty and Epi are terrifying creatures from the 7th dimension.

            1. You should keep a close eye on those women because eventually they’ll bolt. Also, stop being so literal. I should be free to post a semi-apocalytic comment free from the oppression of your patriarchal “reason” because I have a vagina.

      2. Yeah, the second vid. She wants twitter to “name and shame” people who tweet mean things. WE HAVE THE RIGHT NOT TO HAVE OUR FEELINGS HURT BECAUSE LIFE IS REALLY, REALLY HARD!!!

        The guy keep repeating that a law already exits to provides for prosecution of actual physical threats. But, that’s not enough.

        1. He was speaking from a position of privilege. Duh.

          1. Don’t you love how debating a member of a privileged class relives us of the obligation to argue with logic and on principle?

            1. Logic and reason are words defined by the patriarchy and are therefore irrelevant to feminist discourse.

              Then again, you’re cishetero privileged so it is unsurprising that you wouldn’t empathize with the oppressed.

              1. I had to google cishetro. I found a site called Womanist Musings where the writer “unpack(s) my knapsack of cis/hetero privilege”.

                Number 2 on her list:

                “I can choose sexual partners in the assurance that they are comfortable with how my genitalia “corresponds” to their expectations of my gender presentation.”

                Good to know, good to know. That’s a PRIVILAGE, folks.

                1. Privilege knapsack lists are consistently amazing.

      3. Also, women only care about political issues related to their vaginas! ARE YOU FEELING EMPOWERED YET!’

        This.
        The whole concept of “women’s issues” in politics is the height of patronization.

        Like women don’t care about foreign policy or economics.

      4. Why do you think so few women self-identify as feminists?

    3. I somehow made it through the entirety of that video. I’m not sure how.

      Yeah, that line had my jaw on the floor as well. She was purposefully not listening to a single word he was saying the entire time as well.

    4. Her shocked face when he said “…no more than you have a right to speak for all women” totally made it worth watching. She just could not process that concept at all.

      1. “You’re from Planet Misogynist.”

        “Why do you play the gender card rather than arguing ideas?”

        “I’m not.”

        What a moronic hack.

  9. How in holy hell can you be bullied more than once at a place or site to which you don’t have to go? If you don’t like how you’re treated at ask.fm then, uh, don’t go to ask.fm.

    1. I can guarantee you that her entire social life was centered around the site.

      The She-spawn, also 14, lives and breathes on Tumblr.

  10. I bet Cameron just looooooves H&R.

  11. What about self-abuse online?

  12. If you don’t support her point of view then you’re a misogynist who hates women – even if you’re a woman.

    Especially if you’re a woman.

  13. “British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for people to boycott websites that do not “step up to the plate” and deal with abuse online.”

    That’s the libertarian approach.

    “Recently, plans to put Jane Austen on the new ?10 note prompted some twitter users to issue murder and rape threats to a member of parliament and feminists who supported the change. Three arrests have been made in connection to the abuse.”

    That’s a libertarian approach, too.

    There ain’t nothin’ libertarian about using violent threats as a coercive means to influence other people’s free choices. Violent threats–that’s what’s wrong with armed robbery. I hope the guilty are duly convicted and sentenced appropriately.

    1. There’s nothing libertarian about such ideas coming from the mouthpiece of the organization with a monopoly on the use of force.

      1. I don’t see it that way.

        If our president, in reaction to some sensational story about a business not doing something, simply told people that instead of the government getting involved, maybe they should just not patronize companies who do things they don’t like? I think that would be awesome.

        …especially compared to the president we’ve got! Can you imagine if our president said that?

        You don’t like pornography? Don’t buy it. You don’t like the calorie content of McDonalds cheeseburgers? Don’t eat at McDonalds. You don’t like how little Wal*Mart pays its employees? Don’t shop there.

        The U.S. president that says stuff that on camera is a freakin’ pipe-dream.

        1. Let’s ask the question that should be asked first before considering any of that: Why is it any business of any national leader to comment on a local tragedy or personal affairs of its citizens? Why is he even forming an opinion?

          WHY?

          Maybe if they stuck to, you know, actual governing, our lives would be much easier and our tax bills lower. The nannies can fuck off.

          1. I think it’s because there were calls to require twitter to add an abuse button and moderate itself.

            “In response to the latest Twitter controversy some called for the social media site to introduce a “report” button, which would allow users to report abusive behavior.”

            Anyway, that’s the way I read it. Considering that in addition to being like our president, Cameron is also like our Speaker of the House, if and when MPs are talking about requiring a private company to do something or asking him whether as PM he’s going to do something, then, yeah, I think it’s within Cameron’s purview to talk about what the government shouldn’t do.

            Also, I think it’s political suicide for politicians not to comment on big stories, sometimes. As ridiculous as it may seem for presidents and politicians to get involved in issues that really shouldn’t concern them, I think they risk being seen as insensitive by voters if they don’t at least address some big tragedy that’s making a lot of news. I’m not saying that’s the way it should be, but I think that’s the way it is.

            And if that is the way it is, then having an executive whose response consists of–I don’t think the government needs to get involved–is probably about the best a reasonable libertarian can hope for.

            1. “And if that is the way it is, then having an executive whose response consists of–I don’t think the government needs to get involved–is probably about the best a reasonable libertarian can hope for.”

              Here’s the most common alternative:

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yeA_kHHLow

              In case you haven’t noticed, Obama uses whatever’s in the news to get all sorts of terrible legislation passed.

              If we could get a president who acted like Cameron did with this, that would be…a dream come true considering what we’ve been through for the last five years.

              1. Well, a boycott is more than just the sum of individuals choosing in isolation to to buy a product, or frequent a website. A boycott is a collective effort to get individuals to act in concert. As a libertarian who believes that social coercion is something worth worrying about, I do think that there should be some ethical standard that limits when the use of boycotts is aceptable.

                Personally I don’t think using them to coerce people into censoring certain kinds of speech, even “abusive” speech, is one of those situations.

                1. I think some of us are seeing what we’re used to seeing, typically, instead of what’s really happening, here. Apparently, there were calls for the government to require Twitter to put a “report abuse” button on everyone’s feed–and hire staff to start censoring people’s tweets…

                  Cameron appears to be standing up against that–and he’s saying that rather than the government regulating Twitter, people should just not use sites they don’t like.

                  If enough people don’t like the way Twitter handles this issue, then either Twitter will change–or one of their competitors will offer what people want. No government intervention necessary.

                  That’s the way things work in Libertopia. If the executive can’t argue for free market solutions–becasue he’s the executive–then what hope do we have?

                  1. P.S. Boycotts are as Libertarian as the Boston Tea Party. Well, actually, the Boston Tea Party took this even farther than Cameron is advocating, since Cameron isn’t advocating actually destroying Twitter’s product. But the boycott idea is the same, and I don’t see anything un-libertarian about the executive advocating that people band together (within the context of the free market) and let their market muscle do the heavy lifting.

                    That’s what I would hope a Libertarian president would say–all hail the power of free markets!

                    Companies are more responsive to their customers than government is to the voters anyway. If some of you don’t want Twitter censoring your posts–and some of you do? Don’t look to the government to sort that out–take it to Twitter.

                    I’m trying to imagine a more libertarian response.

    2. Making idle threats via Twitter to someone who is miles and miles away is equivalent to putting a gun into someone’s face and demanding cash.

      Sure.

      Whatever.

      1. You’re right that sticking a gun in someone’s face, on the one hand, and calling them up on the phone to make a threat, on the other, aren’t the same thing. But then I’m not saying these people should be convicted of armed robbery.

        I’m saying that threatening people with violence in order to try to coerce them into making a choice they wouldn’t have made otherwise is a crime. …and it’s got the same root as other crimes–from armed robbery to rape and fraud.

        Violent threats are violent threats. One may be more immediate, but just because making it in text isn’t as immediate as pointing a gun to your head, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a violent threat.

        If somebody used twitter to threaten to shoot you unless you did something, you wouldn’t think that was a violent threat–because it was via twitter?

        I’m not saying these people should get the same punishment as someone convicted of armed robbery or rape, but making violent threats is criminal.

        1. Making violent threats via Twitter is juvenile, not criminal.

          1. Well, can I get a list of which delivery mechanisms turn threats into being merely juvenile?

            ’cause I base whether it’s a threat on content alone, and I don’t understand why it would be judged any other way.

            1. So you see absolutely no difference between a teenage girl sending you a threatening tweet with a pink cell phone in her hand, and a burly man verbalizing the same words to your face with a lead pipe in his hand.

              After all, the content is the same.

              So there is absolutely no difference. The ability or credibility of the person making the threat has no bearing on whether or not it is a threat. Only the content matters.

              Wow. I guess I should be careful of what I post to you. Wouldn’t want you to call the FBI on me for making a threat since only the content matters, not the ability of the person to carry out the threat.

              1. Someone on a gaming site talking about how they’re going to kick another player’s ass (in the game) is one thing.

                So, yeah, I’ll concede that there are times when the content should be considered within the context of a specific situation…

                “Recently, plans to put Jane Austen on the new ?10 note prompted some twitter users to issue murder and rape threats to a member of parliament and feminists who supported the change.”

                But addressing a violent threat to a specific politician to murder him because of the way he plans to vote on an issue? is not one of those situations that mitigates the content of the violent threat.

    3. “British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for people to boycott websites that do not “step up to the plate” and deal with abuse online.”

      Then every single .gov.uk site needs to be boycotted.

      The State is the biggest bully of them all.

    4. “That’s the libertarian approach.”

      Yeah, but don’t play dumb. This is a first step in getting certain speech banned online. And my guess is that you’ll be strangely silent when they do.

      You’ll also notice that nobody slamming Cameron here is saying the state should step in and prevent a boycott, but creeping/incrementalist statism should be met with disdain and derision (at the very least) at step one, even if it’s not violating the NAP, per se.

      1. “This is a first step in getting certain speech banned online. And my guess is that you’ll be strangely silent when they do.”

        I was vocal in my opposition to torturing terrorists on principle–you think I’m going to be silent about the government infringing on our freedom of speech, why?!

        Telling people that the government has no right to tell a private company to censor their customers is not the first step in a slippery slope to censorship.

        Quite the opposite!

      2. “You’ll also notice that nobody slamming Cameron here is saying the state should step in and prevent a boycott, but creeping/incrementalist statism should be met with disdain and derision”

        How does Cameron telling people that the government shouldn’t get involved, and if they’re unhappy with Twitter they should take it up with Twitter–amount to “creeping statism”?

        Watch the video! The reporter mentions that the dead child’s father is asking Cameron to do something to require that online speech is censored–and Cameron’s answer, basically, is about how that’s not the government’s business!

        How much more of a libertarian response could you hope for?!

        If anything’s off here, it’s Feeney’s characterization. I don’t see Cameron saying anything here that Ron Paul would disagree with strongly…

        If Cameron’s response wasn’t the libertarian response to a reporter asking about what the government should do in reaction to a child’s death, then what is the libertarian response?

        Some of us are going on autopilot, here. If Ron Paul were president, and a child committing suicide with a gun bought at Wal*Mart was a big story in the news, and a reporter asked him for a response to the child’s father calling for the government to ban gun sales at Wal*Mart, I can scarcely imagine Ron Paul coming up with a better, more libertarian answer…

        If you don’t like what Wal*Mart’s selling, then don’t shop at Wal*Mart! Isn’t that what Cameron is saying about Twitter?

  14. I love that he leads what is called the “Conservative” party.

    It’s like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea which manages to avoid being democratic, people-focused, or a republic.

    He’s a fat chinless statist idiot.

    1. “He’s a fat chinless statist idiot.”

      I wish our president were half as good as he is.

  15. Dear Prime Minister,

    The world would be a better place without you in it.

    Best regards,
    Anomalous

  16. So sad to watch the precipitous decline of a country that once resisted and beat back the Nazi horde, into a stronghold of pathetic and cringing hoariness.

  17. The move, although perhaps well intended, has worrying implications, as Alex Deane from the U.K.-based think tank Big Brother Watch recently tried to explain to feminist Cathy Lette

    I’m at work, so I can’t watch the video (damn firewall), but I’m sure that went over really well.

  18. I think this fails my boycott permissibility test.

    A) Online “abuse” is obviously verbal in the first place, and therefore protected by freedom of speech.
    B) Boycotting people for offensive speech is impermissible.
    C) A website MAY have a policy against offsensive speech, but …
    D) A website may also have a policy encouraging free speech, and if so …
    E) Boycotting a website for not having a policy censoring certain kinds of speech is impermissible.

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