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Should We Continue To Ignore Internet Trolls?

Troll In The Dungeons

A troll is a mythical creature, most commonly in found in children's fairy tales, hiding under bridges. However, in the digital age the word troll has taken a rather gloomier meaning. When we hear the word troll we no longer think of the cruel and ugly creatures, but another sort of creature, one that preys on all social networks and hides behind anonymity.

Trolls can be found littered all round the internet, on most social media networks, where they post hateful and offensive content, all under the pretense of 'free speech'. What these trolls do not realize is that in the real world, even free speech has its limits; you cannot get away with saying everything and anything. Free speech does not mean that you can freely insult or threaten someone without consequences. Yet we choose to not apply these rules to the internet where trolls are allowed to roam free.

Celebrities, people in the public eye and even your normal person is told to 'grow a thicker skin', to ignore these comments, and that in itself is problematic. Confronting a troll, or 'feeding' it, is seen as only fueling the perverse pleasure it takes from harassing individuals online. Yet, ignoring these comments is the worst thing you could do, the reason why trolls feel no shame in posting these comments is because they cannot see the other person on the receiving end. In confronting a troll, you are forcing him to realize what he is doing, forcing him to see that you a real person, not just a social media account. You wouldn't tell a child, a victim of bullying, to ignore his tormentor.

Because that is essentially what trolling is: bullying. By calling online harassment trolling we are trivializing it, making it seem childish and of no consequence. Trolls are made up mythical creatures that have no anchor in our modern world. Trolling is bullying, trolling is harassment, trolling to can also be stalking. Just because these individuals are hiding behind the word 'troll', does not mean that their actions should not be taken seriously.

Because they are hiding behind a username, trolls act as though they are above the law. In the UK, under the 2003 Communication Act, sending messages that are "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character" is considered an offense. However, not a lot of trolls are actually brought to justice and the Communication Act is already 10 years old. It is time to start a crackdown on seriously threatening and dangerous trolls. The internet is a space that children have access to, where we should feel safe. If there were a harsher laws on online harassment, individuals would be less likely to post offensive content.

Last week Brenda Leyland, who was revealed to be behind the twitter account @sweepyface, was found dead in her hotel room. Through this account she had been sending some rather horrible messages to the McCann family. Gerry McCann is demanding harsher laws against trolling, stating: “I’ve got grave concerns about our children as they grow up and start to access the internet in an unsupervised capacity.There have been other instances where people are threatening to kidnap our children. People are threatening violence against Kate and myself.” The McCann family repeatedly were sent tweets that read "I want to see them smashed up at the back of a bus or trampled by a horse". It would be unacceptable and rude for someone to say that to your face, so why is it still OK for trolls to do it online?

However, there is hope. A man was sentenced to 18 weeks in jail for tweeting rape threats to British MP Stella Creasy after she supported the successful campaign to get Jane Austen on the £10 note. This is a rather high profile case and not all online rape threats, unfortunately, end up with the troll in jail.


Laura is a recent graduate from University of East Anglia in Film and Television Studies, currently interning as a content writer but hoping to one day live off her writing. Follow her @LauraAtSMF.

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Should We Continue To Ignore Internet Trolls? Reviewed by Laura Veit on Monday, October 13, 2014 Rating: 5
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