Internet trolls: back to your caves

#### ** “Aw Adele gave birth to a baby. Is it fat and handicapped lol? Just murder it already lol” **

This tweet was accompanied by tweets from other users threatening to kill Adele herself, criticising her weight and wishing her post-natal depression. Just when you were starting to rebuild your faith in humanity.

Internet trolls (users who post provocative or abusive messages on public forums) are a sort of occupational hazard to reading online comment sections. They range from the incomprehensible to the shockingly venomous, as Adele has just discovered. Under _Section 127_ of the _Communications Act 2003_ it is illegal to post messages online that are “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.”

The 17 year old who told Tom Daley his recently deceased father would have been disappointed by his Olympics performance discovered this when he was arrested. So did Matthew Woods when he was jailed for 12 weeks for posting ‘jokes’ about having sex with a missing 5 year old girl.

{{quote Some of the messages Penny has received are truly disturbing: descriptions of how men would like to strangle her, cut her up, rape her }}

Columnist Laurie Penny and former Conservative MP Louise Mensch have long been campaigning against the misogynistic and threatening messages they say many women in the public eye receive on a daily basis. Some of the messages Penny has received are truly disturbing – descriptions of how men would like to strangle her, cut her up, rape her. They are definitely of a “menacing character” and at this point the police should be asked to step in.

As frequently as the police are involved, however, the messages are picked up, re-tweeted and re-posted across news outlets and blogs in order to ‘shame’ the trolls. Though this may work to embarrass that specific user, the media attention is counter-intuitive to the widespread problem.

Trolling is the behaviour of unhappy, pathetic and lonely people. There is a strange confidence that comes with adopting an anonymous account name, as if speaking online means you aren’t heard by real people. Twitter, Facebook and comment sections equalise everyone’s words: everyone is afforded the right to speak. It is the people who aren’t listened to in real life that don’t know how to exercise this right.

By repeating a troll’s comments – in however negative a light – the media is reenforcing them as worthy of note. Suddenly the public’s attention is directed towards the comment.

Trolls existed long before the Internet came along. It would be understandable if Adele called the police following those tweets, but in a way I hope she doesn’t. I hope she realises that trolls just aren’t worth the effort.


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