At last a hope of turning tables on internet trolls [Daily Post (Liverpool, England)]
(Daily Post (Liverpool, England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) UNTIL a few years ago I thought a troll was an ugly character used by the Brothers Grimm to frighten young readers of their fairy stories. I also seem to recall a time when the rather macabre figures were popular as a dangling accessory to car rear view mirrors, but other than being a distraction to drivers were intrinsically harmless.
Then the word started to appear in a different context to describe people who used anonymity to spout vile venom via the internet. And when I became a victim of one particular troll I realised just how harmful and upsetting this type of abuse can be. During a long and varied career as a journalist I had been used to having my work criticised because the old maxim “you can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time” holds very true in our profession. I have even been the victim of a death threat issued by a mentally unbalanced person who thankfully was committed to a secure institution before he could carry it out.
But I was nevertheless shaken when the so-called troll started to belittle my work via an internet blog. And when the comments became of a more personal nature I made a robust response which surprisingly elicited a climb down. Others though haven’t been as fortunate, and have been subjected to months and years of abuse which in some cases have brought them to the verge of despair and in some cases to suicide. Only last week we heard of a young girl so vilely abused by trolls on a social networking site that she took her own life, and sadly she isn’t the only one.
So I applaud the action of Aberconwy MP, Guto Bebb, who has taken a tough stance with regard to a blog, Thoughts of Oscar, which has been targeting people and institutions in his constituency, including himself, with complete impunity for a number of years. As a result of his intervention, senior North Wales Police officers have promised to investigate to see if there are grounds for criminal proceedings against its author, Llandudno newsagent Nigel Roberts, who confirmed what many had suspected, by publicly accepting responsibility for it after Mr Bebb used Parliamentary privilege to name him.
The promise of police action is one that people who have previously complained to the police about Thoughts of Oscar will surely welcome. I spoke to one such victim at the weekend who said he had visited Llandudno police station some years ago to lodge a formal complaint; but was told there was nothing the police could do because the blog didn’t come within their jurisdiction. Angry and disappointed, he says he felt abandoned by a legal system which seemed powerless to act in circumstances where he says his good character was torn to shreds. If such material had been published in the print media by a journalist like myself I would have risked contravening the law of libel, but because it was on an anonymous blog and there was no way of tracing the author, he was told there was no redress.
Now Mr Roberts has come out into the open, this gentleman like many others is interestedly awaiting the outcome of the police enquiries. Perhaps, thanks to Mr Bebb the day of the anonymous internet troll is coming to an end? I sincerely hope so.