Forget Trump, let’s go after the real Twitter trolls


Finally. Social media has grown a pair (well, sort of).

After years of complacent, toothless silence in the face of desperate pleas for action, tech giants Twitter and Facebook have cracked down on toxic behaviour online.

Just one small caveat: it's not the systemic abuse by gutless trolls and their unrelenting messages of hate that are the target.

It's only Donald Trump.

Since the American media called the US election result in Joe Biden's favour earlier this month, President Trump's Twitter, Instagram and Facebook pages have been plastered with warnings.

More than 40 alerts have been slapped on his Twitter posts last week.

Admittedly, the 74-year-old has been on an unhinged tweetscapade alleging voter fraud.

In response Twitter, within minutes of Trump tweeting, smacked back with retractions stating "this claim about election fraud is disputed" and "multiple sources called this election differently".

Likewise, social networking giant Facebook also tagged every Trump post with disclaimers of: "Joe Biden is the projected winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election" or "The US has laws, procedures, and established institutions to ensure the integrity of our elections".

Even photo sharing site Instagram has joined the bandwagon, sticking alerts announcing Biden as the projected winner on Trump's posts.

Meanwhile Biden on election night tweeted: "Keep the faith, guys. We're gonna win this". Yet, somehow was never issued with a warning.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for banning Trump's demented rants that enable misogyny, racism and violence.

We've had to endure pussy grabbing, "stand by" Proud Boys and his announcement that "the Poles" had closed.

How could we forget his questioning the efficacy of injecting disinfectant to cure coronavirus and the skin-crawling admission that he'd date his own daughter?

Then there was his disastrous public health message when he announced he was leaving hospital early while battling coronavirus and that people shouldn't "be afraid of Covid" (for context: 253,000 Americans have died from the virus since March).

The man is, in my opinion, stupid, unpleasant and dangerous.

But why the sudden performative efficacy from social media giants?

Their collective conscience was conveniently nowhere to be seen when Trump wrote on Facebook and Twitter earlier this year that he would respond to Black Lives Matter protests with use of the military, saying: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts".


But when Trump posted that "Voter Fraud in Detroit is rampant, and has been for many years!" it was swiftly corrected.

The mind boggles at how the Silicon Valley boardrooms reasoned this response.

"Threats and glorifying violence? Yeah, all good. Questioning a Democratic victory? Forget about it!"

Do the social media giants really believe we will forget their complicit silence now they're suddenly pretending to be responsible global platforms?

For every victim who has begged and pleaded with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to help protect them from trolls, threats, revenge porn and lies, this sudden, iron-fisted crackdown on just one man is blatant hypocrisy at its disappointing worst.

Channel 9 star and radio presenter Erin Molan was forced to turn to police when at 33 weeks pregnant she received repeated social media threats from a man wishing her baby would be stillborn.

Erin Molan experienced horrific abuse from a troll online. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Erin Molan experienced horrific abuse from a troll online. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

When she reported the abuse to Facebook, she received an electronic reply saying the messages were not "abusive or offensive" enough to take action.

Erin, who has been outspoken on the need for more action to prosecute trolls, told me it was encouraging to see social media companies taking "a more proactive approach".

"But they need to do it consistently and across the political divide - regardless of what side of politics those in charge support," she said.

"They need to extend that kind of approach to any user that might be posting untruths, not just the high profile ones."

Erin Molan, with her daughter, wants more action taken to prosecute trolls. Picture: Instagram
Erin Molan, with her daughter, wants more action taken to prosecute trolls. Picture: Instagram

Erin also wants social media platforms to do more to protect users.

"Taking offensive material down doesn't solve the problem - identifying and punishing perpetrators will," she said.

And that is the flaw with these one-sided theatrics. Trump is not the problem. He is a symptom of a prolific social media disease and it's not going away.

Social media companies need to act beyond this tokenistic exhibitionism against Trump.

If they really cared, make this crackdown a platform-wide policy against every troll, regardless of whether they are a deluded ousted Republican President or not.

Originally published as Forget Trump, let's go after the real Twitter trolls