Now an internet “troll” has been jailed for mocking dead teenagers websites, will other internet weirdos crawl back into the woodwork and give up their nasty little hobby?
I fear not.
Sean Duffy was jailed for just 18 weeks for posting vile and offensive messages and videos on tribute pages.
One of those he targeted was 15-year-old Natasha MacBryde, who had committed suicide by stepping in front of a train. He left messages purporting to be from Natasha beyond the grave on a Facebook page set up by her devastated, shell-shocked family.
He also created a Facebook page for a 14-year-old girl who died of a epilepsy attack, and sent her greiving mother taunting messages. He even sent one on Mother’s Day.
The fact that he suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the autistic spectrum, was brought up in defence at his trial; I’d say that was a huge insult to other sufferers, who would never dream of acting in such borderline evil fashion.
He may have social issues, but his condition in no way is the excuse for what he did. And clearly, he had enough of a social conscience to realise he needed to use false identities to make his posts for fear of recrimination.
Duffy didn’t give a damn for the pain the families he victimised were feeling, though. He was only interested in bigging himself up in the eyes of those who seem to think it’s clever to make sick jokes about real tragedy.
Duffy, the son of a comedy writer, clearly revelled in the attention he got from other sicko trolls, who made him feel his wit was razor-sharp.
But that makes him a victim too.
Duffy is one of millions of losers and saddos who have, unfortunately, been given a voice by the biggest social communication medium ever; the internet.
Ugly little trolls used to live under rickety-rackety bridges in children’s stories and in drab little bedrooms, all over the world. Or they sat all alone in corners of pubs, isolated by their inability to be pleasant. Few people ever had to listen to them.
Now they lurk on online forums, Facebook pages and newspaper comment forms. There, they leap at the opportunity to spill poison from their twisted mouths. Legitimate outlets for public comment, opinion and everyday chit-chat are bombarded with insults, provocation, threats and disgusting snipes.
Supporters of trolling argue it’s about humour, mischief and freedom of speech. But it isn’t funny or interesting or relevant to normal, caring people.
At its fiercest and nastiest, all that bitchy opinion and sick sarcasm is the internet equivalent of desecrating someone’s grave, or of screaming and shouting at a total stranger in a no-holds-barred fit of road rage because you’ve been cut up on the dual carriageway. Or of joining in with the bullies to stick the boot into a victim already down on the ground.
Duffy is only the second person in the UK to be jailed for trolling. Colm Coss was jailed for 18 weeks after posting obscene messages on Facebook sites set up in memory of the Big Brother star Jade Goody.
We need more people prosecuted for expressing extreme internet vitriol, longer sentences and an end to anonymous posting. The modern-day monster under the bridge is growing too big and too nasty for his boots.