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Posted - 09/14/2011 : 07:41:23 AM Trolling: Who does it and why? An internet "troll" has been jailed for mocking dead teenagers on various websites. Public figures, including Stephen Fry and Miranda Hart, have also been victims of trolling. So what is it and why do people do it?
The word comes from a Norse monster but the troll is a very modern menace. For some it's the internet equivalent of road rage, vandalising a grave, or kicking a man when he's down.
Trolling is a phenomenon that has swept across websites in recent years. Online forums, Facebook pages and newspaper comment forms are bombarded with insults, provocations or threats. Supporters argue it's about humour, mischief and freedom of speech. But for many the ferocity and personal nature of the abuse verges on hate speech.
In its most extreme form it is a criminal offence. On Tuesday Sean Duffy was jailed for 18 weeks after posting offensive messages and videos on tribute pages about young people who had died. One of those he targeted was 15-year-old Natasha MacBryde, who had been killed by a train. "I fell asleep on the track lolz" was one of the messages he left on a Facebook page set up by her family Duffy is the second person to be jailed for trolling in the UK. Last year Colm Coss was imprisoned for posting obscene messages on Facebook tribute sites, including that of Jade Goody.
Trolling appears to be part of an international phenomenon that includes cyberbullying. One of the first high-profile cases emerged in the US state of Missouri in 2006, when 13-year-old Megan Meier killed herself after being bullied online. The bully, Lori Drew, was a middle-aged neighbour who had set up a MySpace account to win - and later betray - her trust. Drew was acquitted of unauthorised computer use in 2009 due to concerns that a conviction would criminalise false online identities. The First Amendment of the US Constitution protects free speech and makes it difficult to punish people who post offensive messages. But concern over internet vitriol is growing. Facebook's former marketing director Randi Zuckerberg and Google head Eric Schmidt have both suggested anonymous posting should be phased out.
One of the difficulties is that trolling is a broad term, taking in everything from a cheeky provocation to violent threats. And why people do it continues to baffle the experts. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14898564 By Tom de Castella and Virginia Brown BBC News Magazine
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