JOURNALIST and spindoctor Eoghan Harris has been in the news this week for his association with an online account that published unsavoury comments about people – often female ournalists – it associated as being ‘soft’ on Sinn Féin.
And while the social media community rushed to vilify the writer, and in turn vilify the vilifiers, the entire nasty episode has raised a bigger question: when are we going to tackle the growing toxicity of this incredibly powerful medium?
Twitter, where this current debacle had its origins, is just one example of all that is wrong with the medium. It has been with us since 2006.
By the end of last year, there were 187 million users of the site.
Like a modern Frankenstein, creator Jack Dorsey must now surely see the monster he created.
The billionaire said a few years ago that if he was starting to build Twitter now, he would not make the ‘followers’ function as prominent.
It seems that the more ‘followers’ users have, the more they feel emboldened to take risks. That was made very evident in Twitter’s use by a recent US president who eventually had to be ‘silenced’ by the platform.
But, of course, the perceived ‘beauty’ of social media is that anyone can use it, not just the rich and powerful.
From fat-shaming to racism, to misogny and fake news, and everything in between, all that is bad about humanity can be found on any one of several easy access platforms.
It raises the age-old debate between censorship and free speech, but at what point do we call time on unbridled access to the promotion of hate speech?
Perhaps that particular horse has already bolted.