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Monday, 28 July 2014

Bell set to toll for the trolls

EVERY now and again society throws up a particularly unedifying bunch of people. In the 1970s it was football hooligans. Today it is internet “trolls”.

Louise Allonby
Louise Allonby

In the 1970s it was football hooligans. Today it is internet “trolls”.

For the benefit of anyone who has been living in a cave for the past few years an internet “troll” is a modern blight on society who spews nastiness, vitriol and hatred via online social networking sites and the internet in general.

These people, who more often than not hide behind nom de plumes, seem to think normal rules and standards of behaviour don’t apply to them: they can say what they like about whomever they like with impunity. Reputations can be ruined, vile personal abuse can be hurled indiscriminately – and no one can do anything about it.

Well, not for much longer. A growing backlash is being mounted against the blight of the internet troll. Right-minded members of society are increasingly determined to show these knuckle-headed people it is simply not acceptable to hurl libellous – not to mention criminal – abuse around the internet.

Cumbria’s chief constable, Stuart Hyde, has been placed in charge of the national fight against e-crime: and the welcome message appears to be that even in the ethereal world of the internet, sometimes there’s no place to hide.

Of course, not all internet abuse constitutes criminal activity; and often it is the trolls who fall short of illegality in their comments who may be tempted to think they are beyond sanction.

In fact, they are not. Nor should they be. I predict that as the horrible trolling phenomenon continues to grow there will be a raft of civil litigation by people who are simply not prepared to take the insults and abuse lying down.

I recently managed to have a most unpleasant Facebook page closed down, through the simple expedient of threatening a group legal action against the people involved. I and a group of colleagues – as principled, professional, dedicated and ethical a bunch of people you could meet (my colleagues, that is) – found ourselves subjected to unfounded allegations and slurs being meted out by a group of people who really should have known better.

Personal name-calling is one thing, as I well know. There is an online forum in Ulverston on which I was once described in gratuitously nasty terms by a gratuitously nasty little troll.

That was water off a duck’s back to me. Physical insults are nothing more than the irrelevant rantings of overgrown playground bullies.

But the trolls who think it is acceptable to besmirch people’s good names on the internet really should think twice before hitting that “send” button.

Have your say

pot meet kettle ouch

Posted by Scott on 15 May 2012 at 22:45

'EVERY now and again society throws up a particularly unedifying bunch of people. In the 1970s it was football hooligans. Today it is newspaper reporters and politicians.' A far more accurate opening paragraph for anyone who has followed the Leveson Inquiry.

Posted by degsy on 15 May 2012 at 20:48

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