The comments were made on twitter and then subsequently retweeted by irate fans of the diver in order to draw attention to them. There have been calls for twitter to clamp down on this sort of behaviour and for action to be taken sooner when such comments arise.
Now, while I am by no means condoning posting abusive comments at anyone else on any form of social media, I do think the question also needs to be asked as to how these comments then get out of hand when they are retweeted by individuals in order to spark outrage on behalf of the offended party.
Ultimately, we are all responsible for what we do on the internet. This seventeen year old is responsible for tweeting a malicious comment at one of our Olympic athletes, and should perhaps rightly be challenged on those comments. However, the only way that a comment like that can get out of hand is if multiple users retweet it, be that to agree with it, or in this case, to voice offense over it. And it is then that I believe we should question whether if you retweet a comment like that, you are essentially helping to spread its message, even if you wish to voice your disapproval of that message.
The only person responsible for putting that offensive comment on twitter was the individual who wrote it. But as soon as that comment was retweeted, every person who retweeted it is equally culpable in spreading its message. We all have the right to be offended or outraged at anything we read. But equally we all have the power to walk away instead of escalating something which probably wasn’t worth giving attention to.