My first venture into any form of Social Networking was the BBC Big Read site which was effectively a discussion forum around the BBC’s Top 100 Books series about 10 years ago. Every now and then an abusive comment would appear from nowhere. Those more experienced than me would simply post a brief comment saying ‘ignore the troll.’
That was a minor inconvenience. As Social Networking has grown so has the sinister power of trolling. It is difficult to understand what motivates them but there is clearly a significant group which sees these networks a way to bully users from the comfort of their own homes.
It is encouraging to see recent developments that have endeavoured to clamp down on behaviour which can be extremely frightening and upsetting for victims. We have already seen the prison sentence handed out to the student who posted offensive comments following the collapse of footballer Fabrice Muamba –
But other cases might not be so easy to pursue.
In April there was story of the tribute site to a Kent teenager that was effectively ruined by trolls –
Nicola Brookes became a victim of severe bullying after she posted a message on Facebook about an X Factor Contestant. In an interesting development she has lodged an application to the High Court to force Facebook to disclose the computers from which the abusive comments originated. This is with a view to her bringing a civil action against them or even a prosecution.
It will be interesting to see the outcome. Facebook and Twitter have millions of users and there is clearly the risk of bullying. But such anti-social behaviour should be as unacceptable online as it would be anywhere else.