Should there be better policing of social media?

Clive Smith says he would not like to arm wrestle athlete Caster Semenya 		Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

CLIVE SMITH: English pigs? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you

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It started off as a seemingly innocuous comment.

Courtney Barrasford had listened to Justin Bieber’s new album on YouTube and then posted a comment on her Twitter account, saying simply: ‘Not really a fan of Justin Bieber but his acoustic album is really good!’

Absolutely nothing in that to upset anybody, you might think.

But the 15-year-old from Buckland in Portsmouth had reckoned without the army of fanatical Beliebers, who took great exception to Courtney and her tweet – all because the star had ‘retweeted’ it so his 34 million followers worldwide could see it.

This obviously caused huge jealousy and within minutes she was receiving messages.

This soon escalated to the point where she was being sent vile comments urging her to kill herself because she was not a Bieber fan.

One tweet, apparently from a 12-year-old in America, said: ‘Just tell her to die.’

Messages then started circulating that Courtney was dating the Canadian pop star – and pregnant with his child.

This story illustrates several points.

One, the growth of social media has allowed young people to communicate and express themselves.

But it has also made it easy for them to hide behind a computer screen or smartphone and make comments to others that they would never dream of making face-to-face.

Two, deeply offensive messages can be posted without any consideration of the effect on the recipient because of the anonymity and remoteness of Twitter.

It’s so simple to say something unpleasant and then press a button to send it straight to its target.

Three, parents have to be aware of what social networks their children are using and what kind of messages they are both sending and receiving.

And lastly, is there enough official monitoring and policing of social networks today so that children who use them are protected from vile comments and cyber bullying?