Advertiser columnist Ruth Wishart compares the success of a Facebook appeal in Helensburgh to the less savoury use of social media...

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It’s a good news story about social media, and that’s not a sentence you get to utter all that often.

As the Advertiser reports, a heavily pregnant local Big Issue seller was the subject of an appeal for a donated seat.

As well as the latter, all kinds of baby provisions have been handed over by sympathisers.

But that rather heart warming tale comes amidst a fresh round of appeals for people who use social media to stop “trolling” – using platforms like Twitter, often under anonymised names, to heap abuse on the object of their scorn.

It’s particularly rampant among political opponents, with the First Minister and other leading political figures being the subject not just of verbal abuse, but serial death threats.

Meanwhile, some of Ms Sturgeon’s own more rabid supporters, usually dubbed “cybernats”, have been urged to clean up their act or face expulsion if they are bona fide party members.

But the problem with this, and with internet traffic generally, is that it’s extraordinarily difficult to police. When I sat on the Scottish version of the Leveson commission on press regulation, we wrestled with the continual conundrum of material which could be the subject of legal proceedings in print, being beyond the reach of the law online.

The core problem is, that unlike the mainstream print press, the electronic variety are not regarded as publishers in the same way.

That’s why global players like Facebook resist being labelled as publishers, insisting that they already take down objectionable material as soon as it’s flagged up.

But the number of people employed by them and by other mega outfits like Google represents a tiny army of in-house scrutineers aimed at billions of worldwide posts.

The answer can’t be, Chinese style, to block external internet traffic to prevent criticism of the government.

But it’s difficult to know exactly what might work unless perhaps a high profile test case is launched. And don’t hold your breath on that one given the very deep pockets of the industrial giants involved.

But we shouldn’t be sanguine about any of this. What also happened this week was a police warning about the rise in “sexting” – young mobile phone users sending sexually explicit photographs often in the mistaken belief that nobody but their boy/girlfriend will be the recipient. Too often they find highly personal material shared and endlessly recycled.

So, for the moment it seems the best response to all of this has to be some kind of self censorship.

Don’t hide behind jokey names to peddle abuse. Don’t tweet, post or send anything you wouldn’t be happy to be circulated, or you wouldn’t say in person. Ditto your use of language.

And don’t forget – if some idiot hurls personal abuse, block them. Very satisfying!