To spoof or not to spoof..

That is the question.  I am on Twitter and sometimes some of the spoof accounts are quite funny.  We have the Pope, The Queen, Prince Charles and many, many more.  Sometimes I sit and chuckle at the humour of these people behind these accounts, and I don’t pay or give much credence to what they say.

It is a bit of fun…

Or is it? Should that person ever feel harassed or feel their name is being tarnished, then what rights do they have to stop this behaviour?

Twitter on the 1st August 2012 will hand over the details of one of these spoofed accounts.. @UnSteveDorkland. I don’t know the ins and outs but Twitter will be handing over this persons details to Northcliffe Media a subsidiary of the Daily Mail Group.

You can follow this on and it appears now that Lord Rothermere has now thrown his weight behind Northcliffe Media in their fight against this spoof account.

The BBC has this to say about spoof accounts:

Two other spoof Twitter accounts come to mind. @Queen_UK purports to be our monarch, and portrays Her Majesty quite affectionately as a gin-swilling granny with a mischievous take on the world. Typical tweet – “One would report that one is enjoying an olympic sized gin, but one doesn’t have the necessary sponsorship rights.”

Then there is our own dear The Killing Station (@killingstation), an account set up in tribute to Television Centre’s very fine BBC staff catering facility, the Filling Station. It mocks both the food on offer and prominent BBC correspondents. Here’s a typical offering: “What’s so bleedin’ special about our Special Correspondents? Apart from the fact that they never say please or thank you. Never. Ever. Rude.”

And they go on to say:

All good fun – but what if Buckingham Palace or the BBC decided that they were not amused, that these spoof accounts were in fact offensive and constituted harassment of staff? Then both organisations could go to court in California and have a good chance of forcing Twitter to unmask the people behind @Queen_UK or @killingstation.

I do have to ask myself though one question.. how would you feel if a spoof account was set up in your name to mock you?  Would you be happy about it, especially if what was being written could be construed as libellous and defamatory?

Unfortunately, social media, is now finding that people who use it have different levels of interaction.  What one person might find funny another person might frown upon or find absolutely disgusting.. We all have our own levels of humour.. but one thing I will say is this..

If Northcliffe Media, thought their staff were being harassed, why not just ask Twitter to remove the account.. and that be the end of it?

Why haven’t Twitter just suspended the account?  Why are they allowing this account to continue to post?  Surely they could suspend the account until the legalities are sorted.

And another thing, by taking this guy to Court, haven’t Northcliffe Media created more publicity for this account?  Up until I read about this story I never knew a @UnSteveDorkland twitter account even existed… but I do now.

And by reading the account it appears that many people are offering their support to him.

But perhaps the lesson to be learnt here is there is a thin line of being funny and being libellous.  It doesn’t matter where you stand.. nobody has a right to tarnish another person’s character or to write lies about them.

I am not saying I agree with Northcliffe Media and their action, but I am questioning the actions of Twitter.  They don’t seem to be doing anything to protect their users or people who are being vilified day in and day out on Twitter.

As far as I can see they are in fact giving those under the threat of being taken to court more rope to hang themselves by not removing these accounts.

When backed into a corner people can lash out.. and sometimes it is in those lashing out moments that you say or write, in the case of Twitter, something you later live to regret.  Come on Twitter… you have a duty to protect users… at least suspend accounts until there is a resolution..

We have international laws …. perhaps it is now time to have an international law for the internet.  Something written in stone that every country and person will have to adhere to… and something that will stop certain people using another Country’s laws to win a case.  Especially if they can get a bigger pay-out or the laws are more lenient towards their case.


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