Have you ever been fraped? This means when someone accesses your facebook account and posts random comments which get attributed to you, or maybe tweaks your profile picture. Usually it's innocuous enough. If you left your account in logged-on mode, a flatmate or partner could just be having a laugh. There have been more serious incidents when hackers have violated facebook pages or set up bogus accounts purely to be malicous. This has become known as trolling.
A web troll is not your mate having a laugh at your expense. Trolls are about as funny as Year Zero was to the people of Cambodia. Reading magistrates recently jailed one of them, 25-year-old Sean Duffy, for 18 months. His despicable crimes included creating a joke YouTube video entitled 'Tasha the Tank Engine'. This was his twisted way of poking 'fun' at 15-year-old Natasha MacBryde, a bullying victim, who had been found dead on a Worcestershire railway line. Duffy posted pictures of a 16-year-old car crash victim, Hayley
Bates, on facebook. He also left sick messages on an online memorial about 14 year-old Lauren Drew, who died after an epileptic seizure.
There are many words in the English language to describe individuals of such cretinous depth. Duffy is a social inadequate of cataclysmic proportions. A soulless cunt would be more succinct. The fact is these so-called trolls are yet another glimpse into the darker forces unleashed by the Pandora's Box of the world wide web. Thanks to the anonymity offered by Internet Service Providers, fuckwits, tossers and downright morons of every description are party to the same technology enjoyed by normal, functional human beings. When a warped imagination gains access to a browser, the potential for psychological damage can be huge.
Online race (and other) hate
Alas, Duffy's sidesplitting humour is but one extreme example of what gets published on message boards and forums right across the virtual world every day. Anytime MSN News features events in the Middle East, you can be sure the comments stream will soon be overflowing with rancid Islamophobia, couched in exactly the sort of vile, racist, dehumanising language that was once directed at Jews in 1930s Nazi propoganda.
BBC journalist Jeremy Vine was discussing the topic of internet trolls on his Radio 2 talk show. He spoke of a friend who blogs regularly but who has become so disgusted by the inane bile his articles regularly provoke he has stopped reading 'below the line'.
Living in the west we enjoy, in varying degrees, free speech. A crackdown on the internet is the first sympton of totalitarianism. You can't blog about social issues in North Korea or Syria. At least trolls, like
Neo-Nazis, in unleashing their fuckwitted diatribes, simply expose themselves to the utter ridicule of the vast majority of rational web surfers. But that's scant relief to the families of the aforementioned teenagers.