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Troll v Freedom of Speech

I tend to blog about things that effect me in daily life, i find that its much easier and more interesting for me to write. I have some great readers who i love for their kindness and loyalty, but for a long time i have been plagued by a cowardly troll. For months i have been happy to delete the posts safe in the knowledge that these people are lonely, friendless and almost certainly suffering from a mental health disorder. So i try to have patience with them and don't take it personally, even though their comments are usually filled with raw hate, and very personal. I have usually deleted them, or caught them in moderation, so thankfully not many of you will have seen them. By their very nature a troll is relentless and wont stop until they find a sore spot to hit.

Natasha McBride
(Source)
You will have heard about the case of 15 year old Natasha MacBryde. In February 2011 she threw herself in front of a train, an absolute tragedy. 25 year old loner Sean Duffy wrote vile messages on a facebook memorial group for Natasha and 3 other memorial groups for other dead teenagers.

I just cant get my head around it, why would anyone want to do such a thing? What's the motivation? I find it absolutely disgusting, and cant help but despise anyone who chooses to feed on the confidence of people at their most vulnerable.

It's time that trolls are shown up for the cowards they are. They hide behind numerous email addresses, usernames, and some go to the extent of hiding their IP addresses. Once they feel like they are safe from identification they seek out vulnerable victims and start a campaign of terror. These people are by definition ignorant and lack intelligence to undertake reasoned debate. What i want them to understand is that there is nowhere to hide.

A few days ago i had a message left on one of my posts by a regular DJ troll. I would normally delete it straight away, but i was out and about and my phone was playing up. Here is the message;

"Perhaps if you spent less time pissing your loan up the wall and more time studying and getting a part-time job you would not be in the shit now? You idle and feckless twat"

(Source)
When i got home i chose not to delete it, but I don't mind admitting that this really upset me. Anyone who has been following my posts over the summer will know how untrue this is. Blogging has been my way of venting my frustrations, and i have had a lot of support from some of my wonderful readers. This individual has identified my biggest weaknesses and hit me with it in my blog, the place that has been so important to me during the hardest few months of my life.

What was really upsetting was one reader who told me;

"He is entitled to express his view"

Freedom of speech is almost always the defence of a troll. Their desperate lack of understanding of the principle of free speech demonstrates their ignorance of human rights, and peoples feelings. Their suggestion is that freedom of speech trumps all. By their logic they can limitlessly insult, harass and bully anyone they choose because it is their divine right to do what they want and say what they want regardless of the consequences.

They seem to walk away from these interactions with their head held high believing they are both morally and legally entitled to reduce people to emotional crisis. I am surprised by how often i come across people who hold this ignorant view. It seems so at odds with reality, yet it appears widespread.

Most people will know a version of the following quote;

"I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write"

This is a misquote [1], and has been hugely misinterpreted. What it doesn't say is that one can say whatever one wants regardless of the consequences. It is merely suggesting that while i may not agree with what someone is saying, i defend their right to say it. A good example is our party political system. Labour may not agree with Conservatives, but the fact that they do not agree doesn't mean that they do not support their right to say it. Our freedom of speech must be respected and not abused. It is subject to many derogations in law, the examples are numerous. More importantly it is subject to our own moral limitations. I may have the right to tell someone they are ugly, have bad breath, and have no personality, but i choose to exercise my moral limitations so that i do not upset that person. Most of us don't even enter into this debate with ourselves, we have learned emotional intelligence and choose to behave in a way that makes people feel good, not bad.

Trolls clearly have zero emotional intelligence, are incapable of exercising restraint, and are cripplingly narcissistic. They are mentally unstable, and in these circumstances i struggle to maintain any sympathy or tolerance.

This is an emerging form of anti-social behaviour. The government, and the police service, only began to learn the devastating effects of anti-social behaviour in the last 10-15 years. New laws have been passed to tackle it on our streets, it is consistently the top neighbourhood priority, and we are still getting it wrong. We need to start giving online anti-social behaviour the attention it so desperately requires. I take the view that online anti-social behaviour has the potential to be so much more damaging than street anti-social behaviour. It is very difficult to identify the offenders, the internet is still fairly lawless, and the anonymity that offenders feel give them the confidence to say things that they may not ever be able to get away with face to face. The government and the police service need to wake up and realise that online victims are not getting the legal protection they so desperately need.


[1]. Boller, Jr., Paul F.; George, John (1989). They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505541-1.