Some of you may have read the recent news articles regarding the Gary Glitter account set up on Twitter. If you haven't, this is the story:
Disgraced pop star Gary Glitter apparently set up an account on social media website Twitter last week. The singer tweeted news of a comeback tour, an album and an autobiography, however the account turned out to be fake and was just created as a “Social Experiment”.
The person behind this account, known only as “Ben” revealed the hoax by posting a link to his blog (Glitterontwitter.tumblr.com) however this has since been deleted for an unknown reason. Ben explained “Let me say that this account does not belong to convicted paedophile Gary Glitter. I am deeply disgusted by what Gary Glitter has done in his life and am not condoning, making light of or glorifying child abuse. His crimes are unforgivable and chilling. I set this twitter account up as a social experiment to highlight the dangers and safety of children using the social networking sites and to discover and question public morality. It's been an interesting and eye-opening experience for me.”
He went on to explain that the reason for the account was to highlight the dangers of internet safety- primarily children using websites such as Twitter and Facebook. He explained that Facebook has a strict rule that states that any person registered as a sex offender is not allowed to use their site, however Twitter does not have such restrictions. They didn't attempt to contact him when the account was set up despite being a well known convicted sex offender - however they have zero tolerance for any discussion of child sexual abuse.
Within 48 hours, the @OfficialGlitter account had over 2,000 followers, and had received media attention from several well known organisations and Newspapers, as well as celebrity followers.
Ben says that although most of the tweets were opposed to him being on Twitter, there were a large amount that were positive.
An interesting point about this is that anyone can set up an account like this claiming to be official.
Anyone can pretend to be anyone else online. An example Ben used in this case is: imagine that a sex offender set up an account on Twitter claiming to be a Justin Bieber fan club. Imagine how many young followers that would get. Now imagine that even with privacy settings on, if your child sees that the club is willing to “follow” them, they will more than likely accept.
The person in charge of that account will then be able to directly message your child privately, as well as having access to all their images.
Very scary thought. Terrifying in fact. Especially when Twitter doesn't even have a “report abuse” button.
There isn't a way of preventing convicted sex offenders from using the internet as it would be impossible to police and it would also “breach their human rights”. The only thing you can really do is discuss internet safety with your kids about the types of things that are acceptable to post & to encourage them to make you aware if they receive any sort of inappropriate contact – no matter who it's from. We'll all just have to be vigilant in this changing world and stay up-to-date with new technologies, privacy policies and pay extra attention to children's online activity.
Thanks for reading
NB: I'm not suggesting that any Justin Bieber fan clubs on twitter are run by paedophiles.