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Twitter - the mobile social network has got nasty

IT wasn't supposed to be this way, and at first Twitter appeared to be the perfect way for celebrities to give fans a closer look at their fab lives.

No need to wait on Heat or Grazia magazines, when a celeb was tweeting about where they had gone the night before and what they'd had for their tea.

Fans loved it, and it was an opportunity for celebs to self-promote and be love-bombed. Some made a packet from Twitter, with Kim Kardashian reportedly earning up to €10,000 a go whenever she name-dropped certain products.

Now the love affair with Twitter has soured, with an increasing number of celebrities quitting Twitter after receiving hateful tweets from followers.

Twitter Quitters, as they are called, include Ryan Tubridy, Ashton Kutcher, Little Britain star Matt Lucas and Friends actor David Schwimmer, who are among the increasing number of celebrities leaving Twitter after receiving abusive messages.

It's reported that comedian Dara O Briain has been called a fat slug on Twitter, while rugby ace Brian O'Driscoll was allegedly told to retire in a message which read, "Great game today!! Time to retire while we still have good memories of how good you were many years ago. Go gracefully."


Meanwhile, Dublin author Amanda Brunker took a pasting when it was announced that she would replace Jessie J at the musical festival Oxegen. She was apparently christened 'Hitless Brunker' and took a lot of flak for filling a slot that could have showcased a promising young band.

Psychologists call it the "disinhibition effect", and it's well known that people say and do things in cyberspace that they wouldn't ordinarily say or do in the face-to-face world.

Yet, while people may loosen up and feel more uninhibited and express themselves more freely while they are in the privacy of their own homes, at other times they turn vile while hiding behind their laptop. It's an opportunity to give a celebrity some grief, and it can prove irresistible for some people of an aggressive nature.

Sinead O'Connor used Twitter as a way to seek help and love, and at one point posted a series of worrying messages for followers. Yet, recently, she announced that she is leaving Twitter and was quoted as saying: "I've stopped Twitter now because, although it was fun for a while, I had to stop because I was getting too much abuse."

In internet slang, "a troll posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chatroom, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal discussion".So how low can a Twitter Troll go?

Former Arsenal player John Hartson was 34 when he fought testicular cancer which had spread to his brain and lungs, and underwent gruelling chemotherapy.

He brought forward his wedding for his fiancée with whom he had two young children. Following a miraculous recovery, the sportsman started a charity to help raise awareness of testicular cancer, and used Twitter as a way to promote it.

Shockingly, he received horrendous online abuse with one Troll messaging, "I hope your cancer comes back and also your girlfriend gets it and u both die from it leaving your kids with no parents."


The Trolls are tarnishing the appeal of Twitter which became popular when famous individuals such as Oprah Winfrey and US president Barack Obama took to using the site in its early days.

Twitter has 500 million worldwide subscribers and was founded in 2006 by 35-year-old internet entrepreneur Jack Dorsey whose San Francisco-based company is valued at more than €7.5bn.

Broadcaster Ryan Tubridy departed Twitter last summer when he said a final goodbye to his 60,000-plus followers. He has used his account to promote his RTE radio show and The Late Late Show.

The broadcaster, however, had been the subject of robust criticism and personalised attacks, and at one point he had remarked on his site, "Twitter gets very unpleasant of a Friday night."

Little Britain star Matt Lucas recently told his 565,000 followers that he was quitting the site, after a teenager tweeted a joke about the death of his ex-partner Kevin McGee, who hanged himself in 2009.

Actor Ashton Kutcher was a prolific tweeter who had more than 9.9 million followers until he handed his account over to a team of media professionals, after a tweet he posted inadvertently landed him in the centre of a US paedophile scandal.

Twitter, sadly, has not turned out to be the love-in which many celebrities thought. Yet all is not lost; a man was recently given community service for racially abusing Desperate Scousewives star Layla Flaherty on Twitter. Flaherty, a Dublin-born model and one of the stars of the E4 reality show, was abused by the man during a drunken rant on Twitter.

And South Wales Police brought a man into custody for alleged racist remarks made on Twitter regarding the Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba following his collapse against Tottenham.