Sunday 19 October 2014

Internet Trolls

My interpretation of what an Internet Troll is, is a person who sets up false accounts to target a victim. I do not see someone who posts as themselves from a well established account, disagreeing with something you say as being a troll.

I'm so glad the internet never existed when I was a teenager, back in my day (1980's) it was snide notes passed round and comments scratched into school desks or graffiti on toilet doors. They were all anonymous comments also, but you had a fair idea who was writing it as your social network only extended to people who you could put a name to a face, knew where they lived, went to school, knew their parents, because you lived in the same area and went to the same school.

In the 'old days' if someone was saying things to your face or even behind your back, you had the option to walk away, spend your time with other people and do your best to avoid the verbal bullies. There were plenty of youth clubs, friday night disco's, plenty of space in the playground, lunch time clubs, after school clubs, you didn't have to interact and engage with the bullies, you simply had other options of places to go.

With todays social media explosion, it is harder to walk away, as when you're sat in front of computer screen or a phone, there's no where to walk to. You do however have the option to turn the device off, sign out of your account or even delete your account. You wouldn't stand there in the playground or the street and just listen to people slagging you off, you'd walk away, you'd report it, you may even argue back, but you wouldn't go and stand outside that persons house and spy on what they are saying about you, question their friends about what they are saying or listen in to their conversations, in case they were talking about you. What would be the point of that?

But you'll sit there in front of your computer screen or on your phone and scrawl through all their accounts, looking for proof that they're talking about you, slagging you off.

I've had many disagreements with people in the real world and on the internet. I know I've been in the wrong, in the right, or agreed to disagree. I've posted short, sharp comments in response to someone who is on the point of turning nasty, usually with a 2 word response beginning with an F. I also find that in real life that response works just as well. Where in real life I comment and turn on my heels to go, on the internet I just block.

In real life and online I stay clear now from issues of race. When I emphasised with someone once about being victimised based on my nationality and I was told I had no idea what it was like until the colour of my skin was used against me. This comment angered me as my experience was an face to face encounter I was told to 'eff off back to my own country and to shove my hockey stick up my c...' this was then followed by a block of ice being thrown at close range at my head, causing my head to bleed.

This was physical assault and there was evidence, it had been witnessed, it was immaterial what I'd said, which was 'please stop throwing food at our table' but it could be dealt with as their was physical evidence. it's not the same when it's online, the intonation can't be heard, the written word can be misinterpreted and I'm sure half the time when I've responded with 'eff off' it's because I've received the wrong message from 140 characters in a tweet.

But back to trolling. In 2010 I tweeted with @CalumBest, jeez I'm at least 20 years older than him, so not his usual audience. I responded to someone else's tweets about addiction and he replied. I then had loads of tweets from young women on twitter telling me to stay away from him. I made a mistake, I interacted and it became abusive, as quick as I was blocking new accounts more were being set up, with false names, the same profile picture.

It was annoying, I steered clear of it, kept blocking, stopped replying, then things changed. She was tweeting me that she was outside my house, watching through my kitchen window, she threatened to kill me if I ever tweeted Calum Best again, she said she had followed me to work.

I showed hubby, his suggestion was to close my twitter account and open a new one, but I had friends on there, genuine ones. I didn't want to give in to the bully. A 23 yo on twitter with an established account contacted me to say she was being bullied by the same person and receiving similar threats, she was in Edinburgh, where the false accounts had been set up according to their profiles but there was no evidence of the tweets and then I discovered she was following all the accounts that had targeted me, but they weren't following her back, like they'd done with me. I contacted her via DM, as a friend, said we should get together to report this to the police, told her I had hired an investigator to search and had found out who this person was making the threats, where they lived and workda y told her about a friend of mine, Emily, who's internet bully had been jailed for 3 months for making death threats on Facebook.

And then it stopped, all of it stopped, I blocked her, the troll. I went to my local police station to report it. I was told by the police exactly what my husband had told me.....'delete your account'.

Why? the bullies/trolls win that way. What I've learnt though is not to get involved, not to respond, not to advertise the trolling, just to block and walk away, just like I did back in the 'old days' when i was a teenager, before social media began.

I'm not sure how the courts are going to manage this new law of up to 2 years in jail for internet trolls surely a lot of the abuse is difficult to distinguish. Yes a direct threat of rape or murder whether written or spoken is a matter for police, but telling someone they are a vile human being in response to something they've said isn't a matter for the courts. It is still abuse, but how is this going to be policed?

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