‘Internet trolling’ is a fairly new phenomena that has been appearing more and more often in the media. Whilst its definition varies across news articles, the most accurate definition of an internet troll is “One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument” (UrbanDictionary.com). However, trolls can reach out to almost any part of the internet, including popular social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Looking at recent events in the news – what trolls have done and why.
Notable cases include the Twitter troll Reece Messer who taunted the Olympic diver Tom Daley with the messages like: “you let your dad down i hope you know that.” Once these tweets were brought to the attention of the public, the troll was forced to apologise. Whilst Tom Daley is a celebrity and has the power of his followers to expose this troll, other users are not so fortunate. Messer was described as a “product of a broken, dysfunctional upbringing” living an isolated life, constantly getting into trouble and surviving on many state benefits.
Then there was Sean Duffy, a Facebook troll who was jailed for mocking multiple teen tribute pages. He posted offensive videos on YouTube taunting the dead and their families, photoshopped offensive pictures and even created fake tribute pages in their name. Duffy was described as an individual who lived an isolated life and had been bullied himself at school and work, and was given a prison sentence due to the severity of his trolling.
Recently a Reddit user was unmasked as ‘the biggest troll on the internet’ for posting and moderating disturbing content on a variety of Reddit sub-forums. The content was vile and kept gaining notoriety until Michael Brutsch was exposed as the man behind it all. What’s interesting for me is not what he did, but why he did it. Using his anonymity, writing offensive messages and encouraging others to do the same enabled him to deal with the stress of working as a computer programmer. He also got the biggest thrill from setting up web forums with sinister names and posting controversial content into them. ‘I do my job, go home watch TV, and go on the internet. I just like riling people up in my spare time.’ He said in an interview, and that he needed to keep his anonymity to protect his ability to express things many people think but hardly anyone says.
All of these trolls have one thing in common: once they are discovered, named and shamed all their acts of internet trolling suddenly stop and of course: apologies. Their power of anonymity disappears once they are discovered.
Adrian Chen. (2012). Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web. Available: http://gawker.com/5950981/unmasking-reddits-violentacrez-the-biggest-troll-on-the-web. Last accessed 1st Nov 2012.
BBC. (2012). Facebook ‘troll’ Sean Duffy sentenced for offensive Sophie Taylor image. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-17385042. Last accessed 1st Nov 2012.
Daily Mail Reporter. (2012). Internet troll behind Reddit ‘Creepshot’ forum where users post sexual pictures of unsuspecting girls fired from his job after his identity is revealed Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti. Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2218204/Michael-Brutsch-Internet-troll-Reddit-Creepshot-forum-fired.html . Last accessed 1st Nov 2012.
Paul Cockerton. (2012). “You let your dad down”: Twitter troll taunts Tom Daley about dead father after diver misses out on Olympics medal. Available: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tom-daley-twitter-troll-taunts-1190741. Last accessed 1st Nov 2012.
Steven Morris. (2011). Internet troll jailed after mocking deaths of teenagers. Available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/13/internet-troll-jailed-mocking-teenagers. Last accessed 1st Nov 2012