An offensive SMS turns out to be a) common and b) not a Twitter problem.
Twitter by phone
Yesterday I tried an experiment. I wasn’t sure if I could use Twitter via my cellphone here in New Zealand, nor how much it would cost. Until now I’ve used Twitterific or the web for my tweets. Anyway, I figured a one-day trial would be informative and not break the bank, so I went to my Twitter settings, entered my cellphone number, responded to the SMS I received by sending back a special code, and things were underway.
A few tweets arrived to my phone, and then my partner, Deb, and I decided to take the dogs to the beach to make the most of a gorgeous winter day. I sent a tweet and a couple more arrived while we were in the car, and once we were on the beach.
A tiny screen
My phone is a nice little Sony Ericsson K700i, connected to the Vodafone network. The screen’s 176 x 220 pixels with 65,536 colours, so it’s pretty tiny.
When yet another SMS arrived I assumed it was another tweet and opened up the message only to be confronted by a photo of what appeared to be a naked woman hanging by the neck.
I was taken aback, shocked and startled. My thoughts immediately turned to the recent stalking and harassment of Kathy Sierra with images of that sort. I also knew for a fact that none of my Twitter friends would send me that image, so wondered if it was Twitter spam.
Once I reached home I (reluctantly) imported the photo to my computer so I could see it better, checked my phone for the details of the sender and started some investigating. First I found it was nothing at all to do with Twitter. The SMS had come to me from a New Zealand Telecom phone number: 027 663642*. I’ve obscured that last digit because I’m just not sure if I should publish the full number here. On the other hand, if someone’s googling that number, my post may show up.
Offensive SMS are common
On checking Telecom’s pages I discovered that while I could report this offensive SMS to both Telecom and the Police there was probably no point. I’m not in favour of wasting the time of the Police who have real criminals to catch. This message offended me, but it is nothing in comparison to actual burglary, bodily harm and the myriad other harmful activities going on daily in society.
Telecom receives about 3,000 complaints per month: Dealing with Nuisance Calls and Text Messages : Telecom New Zealand Limited:
If you are receiving nuisance phone calls and text messages you are not alone. Telecom receives about 3000 complaints a month and operates a specialised call centre to assist customers who are receiving unwanted telephone calls and text messages.
I had no idea it was such a problem! Who are all these people who have nothing better to do with their lives than harass others?
My partner, voice of reason, suggested this obscene message was probably a mistake in keying in the number. Moreover, when I looked at the photo more closely I could see that the woman was indeed naked, with a necklace around her neck, and an unfortunate coincidence of her head being tilted, and dark lines behind her created by walls and ceiling. In fact, she was not hanging, but standing in maybe a bathroom or shower stall. It was just unwanted and offensive, not actually nasty.
I decided to call the sender — after all, I had his number! The call was answered by a recorded message from a probably middle-aged male called Ben. I didn’t leave a message. Instead I sent him an SMS asking why he’d sent me this offensive message. There has been no response.
That’s it. The investigation, my return message and this post are all I’m going to do in response to this SMS porn. Now it’s time to get on to something more productive.