In Internet slang, a troll is a person who seeks to cause dischord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting other users. This is achieved by posting inflammatory,or insulting or even threatening messages in an online community (Twitter, Facebook, chatrooms). Sometimes it is deemed to be unintentionally upsetting but it is usually with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional or frightened response or simply disrupting normal internet discussion.Trolling is now a huge social problem which the government are having to tackle as several teenagers have taken their lives after relentless bullying by internet trolls. Only last week Hannah Smith hanged herself after weeks of being subject to this on-line bullying.
Another recent high-profile case is that of Caroline Criado-Perez; she led a well-publicised campaign to have a woman appear on the new £10 note. She was successful and Jane Austen will appear on the new notes. This reasonable and polite campaign resulted in a misogynistic backlash culminating in rape threats.It is obvious that this is not only unacceptable but surely illegal.And it is an ever-increasing problem;the number of internet trolls convicted in court of bullying online has soared by more than 150 per cent in just four years.Figures in 2012 show more than 1,200 people last year were convicted of sending offensive, obscene or threatening electronic messages – up from just 498 in 2007.Prosecutors have warned the criminal justice system could become overwhelmed with cases.
The trolls themselves use the argument of free speech; Owen Jones in The Independent writes:”Trolls generally regard their right to abuse as a civil right. If you block them on Twitter – meaning you will no longer receive their monosyllabic rants – they regard that as an attack on free speech. Presumably they think hanging up on a crank call, or walking away from a conversation, is also curtailing freedom of speech.” Caitlin Moran, a prolific Tweeter wrote that it is a “full-time” job blocking the deluge of cruel, obscene and violent tweets. She called for the day of protest, a day that became known in tweet-speak as #twittersilence. Some followed her lead, but other would-be celebrities are so addicted to Twitter that they could not bear to be silent even for 24 hours. Laurie Penny made the point that she didn’t think the appropriate response to abusive attempts to silence women was more silence.
The extreme right wing have complained that the police only intervene when threats are made against women and, what they perceive as, the left wing. Far-right figurehead Tommy Robinson of the English Defence League received more than 200 death threats in the wake of his comments following the murder of the soldier, Lee Rigby, in Woolwich. He tweeted: “Since last night I’ve had countless threats to cut my head off. I have [contacted] police over 200 death threats. No arrests.” Whether one thinks these are deserved or not, surely the police have to treat all cases the same;threats or incitement to violence must never be allowed or accepted, whoever is the recipient. A N Wilson makes cogent arguments for leaving Twitter under the headline, ” The Left said Twitter gave power to the people. Now they’re having to admit it’s a toxic monster.” It makes it easy for the vindictive and inadequate to anonymously post abusive threats.Twitter which started as a vehicle of freedom it now seems is a morass of nastiness.