A troll, while its origins can be traced back to myths and legends, has become a member of the Internet community with whom most people have had some kind of contact.
Trolling is the act of going online and anonymously and continuously insulting a person or a group of people. Some people consider it a growing problem while others consider it to be an act of free speech.
Rob Manuel, co-founder of the website B3ta, said that trolling is a way to release people’s desire to poke fun and annoy people; it’s about having a laugh.
Author of “You Are Not A Gadget” Jaron Lanier said that even he has resulted to trolling. Lanier said that the cloak of anonymity can encourage people to react in extreme ways.
Trolling is often used to offend celebrities. Comedian Dom Joly is one such celebrity. Joly took it upon himself to track down some of these trolls and attempt to publicly humiliate them. One of the trolls who humiliated him ended up being a 14-year-old girl who had threatened him, and a doctor who had used his business account to tell Joly that his kids should get cancer and die.
Banning trolling is a sensitive case. Not only can banning it can violate Freedom of Speech rights, drawing the line between harmless play and truly offensive content can be difficult. Some things that can truly offend certain people, can be taken as simple play by others.
Although it can be difficult to discern between harmless play and legitimate threats, the U.K. has started taking some steps against trolls. Recently a man named Sean Duffy from the U.K. was sentenced to 18 weeks in jail for trolling tribute pages dedicated to the deceased on Facebook. Duffy is now the second man from the U.K. to receive jail time for trolling.
Duffy’s jail time can be seen as a travesty against free speech, and it is. The U.K. holds the same measures for Freedom of Speech as we do in America. Duffy’s sentence steps on the belief that people have a right to say what they want about any situation.
Duffy’s case resembles the US case involving Lori Drew, a middle-aged woman who was arrested in 2006 for unauthorized computer use. Drew created a MySpace account to gain and betray the trust of 13-year-old Megan Meier. Meier committed suicide after Drew’s cruel plan was completed. Drew was eventually acquitted of her charges in 2009.
While trolling is a problem, the question we should ask ourselves is “Why is it so shocking?” People in this day and age are losing the barriers that block their abilities to censor themselves. Walking down the street you can be insulted by anyone, and a typical reaction is to insult the person back.
We as a society insult our friends for cheap laughs. We insult each other’s mothers, girlfriends, and other members of our families. If the people we insult most are our friends, why is it surprising that an anonymous figure on the internet would insult you as well?
Starting any kind of online account, you leave yourself open to insults and trolls. It should be expected. Leaving yourself vulnerable to be attacked is the first step to being attacked. People see openings like these and move in merely because they can.
Having someone arrested is a sad and childish reaction to a sad and childish offense. Any kind of response to a troll is just a trying to put a fire out with a match. If you don’t like how someone is talking to you online, then block the person. If blocking them doesn’t work, get off the computer.
Making trolling illegal will be a start to the downfall of Freedom of Speech. Nothing will stop an anonymous person from insulting someone. “If you don’t like it, get over it or get offline.”