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Why Online Abuse Needs Stamping Out
A couple of things happened last week…
that affected me and raised questions regarding the way we interact online. I have been following a couple of bands – who shall remain nameless – who have been indicted for sexually assaulting/abusing a female fan. This is, sadly, something that is becoming more common in music. There are male bands out there – and some solo artists – who feel, because they are adored by their fans, that gives them an all-access pass to their female audience. In their mind, that translates to unwanted suggestions, touching and worse…many have been accused of rape and serious abuse. I am not sure how far the problem extends to music. I am hearing these stories come to light: it may go a lot deeper and affect a lot more people (than are coming through). I am seeing, worrying again, a lot of online abuse and stalking. A lot of female artists have come out and highlighted various people – nameless again – who have approached them with snide insinuations, sexual indecency and vile messages. The issue does not only extend to musicians themselves: members of the public take it upon themselves to send messages/photos to musicians and think they can get away with it. In a week where Cambridge Analytica has been accused of mishandling people’s personal information - wonder whether data-collecting/analysing companies should use their skills to monitor and police social media...
I am concerned there is too much abuse happening in a space many musicians come to find fans and support. I have already mentioned some of the physical assault and attention female artists are getting. When it comes to online interactions; I feel there needs to be a ruthless code of conduct that punishes those who flagrantly disregard the rules. It is not only female artists/users who are finding themselves being trolled and abused. Why there are male artists getting attacking messages and profane comments; it is the sort of attention women are afforded that troubles me greatly. I have seen YouTube videos where a female artist has received some truly shocking comments. A couple have focused on the looks of that artist. Either, they have been degraded and insulting – glad she sings as her face and body are ugly! – or overtly sexual and perverted. It is hard to think of a time where there has been so much unfiltered and unchallenged material floating around the Internet. It is horrible seeing men – mostly but not always – feel they have the right to throw anything they wish into the open. As I say; there have been comments made about a woman’s physical appearance; I have seen direct and scolding attacks on someone’s voice and songwriting – others that abuse the musician directly or cast them in mental pornography. Is it the case that a female artist should be exposed and degraded because of their gender?!
The Internet, unfortunately, is a space that does not discriminate on the grounds of gender. I am seeing feedback from male artists who have been contacted by strangers – receiving threats and insulting remarks. I have looked at some videos where the comments section has been upsetting or plain cruel. Whilst people are entitled to their opinions: how they go about expressing that freedom is not right or understandable. The Internet is this forum where everyone can contact someone or have their say regarding anything. It is a platform that opens doors, minds and opinions. It can be very helpful for musicians: hearing fans’ views and getting that direct correspondence provides heart, motivation and insight. I like receiving messages/updates from people who see my work and are keen to express their thanks. It is heart-warming and comforting to know people are kind and willing to connect. More and more, to balance every kindness, there is a slew of crap and sewage that threatens to take a toll on the music industry. The nature of abuse is varied but it boils down to sexual/sexist commentary and profanity. I have seen death threats and racism being exchanged on social media/sites – a small number of people who feel they have the right to say the most despicable things. How do we go about challenging this practice and seeing change?!
There is a line to draw when it comes to what is acceptable and what can be considered harmless. It is important to differentiate between ‘banter’ and casual mockery and out-right attack. Music is not like politics: it is a forum that should encourage respect and understanding. I am not saying politicians deserve attack and coruscation; music does not deal with people and issues in the same way. Musicians are here to make things better and offer something good to the world. I can appreciate someone would dislike a song/artist – people are allowed to express disapproval and criticism. There is a limit as to what can be said and shared online. Whilst something constructive can be shared regards a song or artist: abusing them and making them feel uncomfortable is not something we can allow to happen. Nobody should have to go online and have to face the sort of abuse that is available. Moderators need to be stricter with comments and cast their net wider. At the moment, people can be banned and arrested for making threats and posting racist comments. I know this happens on sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I wonder whether we need more vigilance when it comes to the likes of YouTube. Many new artists are putting their music out there and, rather than getting kind feedback and praise: they are receiving vile and upsetting posts from people whose agenda is to destabilise them. People, mainly men, are sending sexual comments or attacking appearance.
Even if the comments are about the music itself; is it right to allow profanity and huge negativity to feed in?! I feel part of expressing dissatisfaction with a song/artist needs to be met with limitation. I am not a fan of Coldplay – I do not go to YouTube and post insults on every one of their videos! Why people feel they need to belittle and humiliate artists is quite beyond me! The toll this sort of thing is taking is immense. There is already an issue with mental-health in the music industry. Allowing abuse to circulate and infiltrate is adding to that burden. As we talk about sexism and the way women are portrayed and addressed in the music world; online comments are highlighting why we need to be strict with those who offer nothing but distaste and rudeness. I am hearing about bands who share explicit images of themselves with fans; others who post photos, sexual in nature, of fans and those they have abused. It is hard to get a grip on the full extent of the problem: the Internet is so wide and busy, one cannot ensure every single thing posted is reviewed and treated in an appropriate manner. Those who do blatantly show no respect for someone should be banned from social media, I think. One cannot see the justification for going after someone and showing such little regard for their feelings.
Anyone who treads into criminal territory needs to be dealt with swiftly and brutally. The Internet needs to be a safer space and, at a time where the security of people’s personal data is being questioned and put under the microscope – do we need to take a look at everything posted and weed those out who are there to cause harm?! It need not be something as elaborate and complicated as thousands of people monitoring every portal of the Internet. My suggestion is simpler: algorithms and programmes that views every comment and detect the abusive from the acceptable. It would not be as swift as someone being blocked and banned after that initial comment. There needs to be a sense of review – to determine the intention and veracity of the remark. That might sound complicated but it would not have to be – if we spent a bit of money and time ensuring people are protected. I am getting annoyed at certain people who bring their brand of insult and cruelty to people. Trolling and explicit comments are not something we want to see associated with music. In fact; nobody wants to see it in any corner of the world. To ensure we do not add to the debt of poor mental-health and degrade musicians; we need to get tough with people who flout the law and think they are above punishment. Setting examples would deter others and show you cannot get away with calmly abusing people. The rise in sexual abuse claims and trolling needs to be tackled and stemmed. If we can do that, and reduce/eliminate disturbing and unwholesome comments, that can lead to a refinement and improvement. People would feel safer and, with it, we can create an environment where musicians do not need to worry and…