Who Should Be Responsible For Tackling Online Trolls?

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In her recent BBC documentary ‘Odd One Out’, Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson has spoken for the first time about the online trolling and abuse she has faced over the past eight years. 

Since winning the X-Factor back in 2011, she has been subjected to hundreds of messages and comments regarding her physical appearance, which have hugely affected her personal life as well as her career. In the documentary, Jesy opens up about the devastating effects that this has had on her mental health, to the point where she tried to take her own life.

Sadly, she is not the only one. A YouGov poll has found that nearly one in four adults have experienced cyberbullying at least once in their lives, and that young people are the worst affected; this figure rises to over 50% when looking at the eighteen to twenty-four age group. Over the past few years, there has been a huge rise in mental health problems within this age group; over 38% of young people feel that social media plays a key role in this.

At the moment, platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook are clearly failing to tackle the issue fully. While not responsible for the trolling itself, they do have the ability to regulate comments and posts and block the offending users. They also have functions which allow users to report or block others who are harassing them; however, once reported, these trolls are often simply allowed to continue. This also puts the responsibility on the victims to resolve the issue themselves. Unfortunately, many feel that not enough is being done, and over 80% of young people believe that these companies should do more.

In January, a parliamentary inquiry into social media declared that these companies have ‘a duty of care’ to young people and their mental health. Although Instagram has since committed to preventing bullying on their platform, this process is slow and challenging and is still failing countless victims around the world. More recently, another inquiry has been opened focussing on the effects of reality TV. This came as a result of the deaths of two Love Island stars, who tragically took their own lives after they endured trolling and bullying across social media following their appearance on the show.

However, it is not just the responsibility of the social media companies. It is important to educate young people about the severity of online bullying and the tragic consequences it can have. The documentary highlights some of the important work being done across the country by trolling victims who are using their own experiences to inform others. Hopefully, with more information, we can reduce the number of cases of online trolling and reduce its damaging effects.

Although resilience is an important characteristic, it is more important to ensure that young people do not have to deal with this kind of abuse at all. Clearly, trolling is a huge problem and one that is not going to go away by itself. It is high time that social media companies step up and take responsibility for the harmful content being posted on their platforms.

Image Credit: Hello! Magazine