In My Opinion: Courtnay McLeod: A non-traditional silence

SEVERAL people have asked why I am taking part in #twittersilence, as if surprised that someone ‘like me’ would be silenced. But I am not silenced; I am actively contributing to a racket at the very heart of where a problem exists.

There is certainly a feminist tone to Caitlin Moran’s #Twittersilence, but the reasons I am involved aren’t as feminist as you might expect. I could easily provide a narrative that includes my feminist views, personal experiences, bras and daughters, but that would all be untruthful.

I chose to take part because I think it is a neat trick. Moran’s idea is simple and clever at the same time – it has got a key message trending; keeping the spotlight on an issue that needs more attention and generating important conversations.

Like most people, I’ve been aware of the bullying problems on Twitter for years. And now I have decided to do something about it, after seeing some horrific images and death threats, @stellacreasy. Doing something is often harder but more effective than saying something. Words can come easy, particularly on Twitter.

So I’ve opted for 24 hours where I won’t tweet anything except #twittersilence. This works for me because it sends out the right signals, without requiring anyone to leave a space where the bullies exist. Nobody is disempowered; nobody is sulking with a feminist pout, or arguing back and forth, or huffing and puffing as they close their Twitter account.

And there certainly isn’t a contradiction with #Twittersilence trending. That is of course the point, hence the hash tag. The word ‘silence’ is illustrating the protest, not the state of those taking part. The fact it trended (very quickly) is generating the noise, attention, and debate that I hoped the ‘silent’ protest would achieve.

This week, steps were finally taken taken by Twitter to address appalling, abusive behaviour – apologies, pledges and ‘report abuse’ buttons are all good, but the pressure on Twitter must continue. The job of dealing with trolls and bullies isn’t over yet, it has barely started.

And it’s not just Twitter’s job to tackle it. It is a responsibility we share – as we would if it was happening in our homes, streets, playgrounds and offices. Whether virtual or real, all our communities must seek to eradicate threats of rape and murder. It doesn’t matter if it is #twittersilence #twitternoise or #shoutback; anything other than the traditional silence will do.

Courtnay McLeod is director of the Scottish Media Academy and regularly teaches broadcast journalism at various universities and colleges, with special interests in media convergence issues and broadcast writing styles.