Here we outline the impact of trolling and what needs to be done to prevent and deter perpetrators.
These days, generally speaking, people can say what they want online without fear of consequences. Social and online media are brilliant in terms of connecting us with friends, people in the public eye, those we are inspired by and may even aspire to be like.
More often than not, sadly, there will be ‘faceless’ people online who may not have to have had an account verified, acting as ‘keyboard warriors’, leaving comments or sending people messages online that they probably wouldn’t dare say in real life.
People leaving these hurtful comments are defined as internet trolls. Under laws on cybercrime, people found guilty of trolling could face criminal charges if they are reported and found out.
What is trolling?
Trolling is defined by the Crown Prosecution Service as:
‘a form of baiting online which involves sending abusive and hurtful comments across all social media platforms’.
Internet Trolls in Action
If you have made it through life so far without seeing hurtful comments about someone in the public eye online, you are likely in a minority. Trolling can be seen on Twitter threads or posts being re-tweeted with disrespectful captions, also in comments on the tabloid papers’ online posts, or comments on Instagram posts.
Reality TV, Sportspeople and Politicians
We know all too well that even despite the England national team doing so exceptionally well in the Euros, racism remains rife in professional sport with fans turning on players if they miss a shot or don’t perform as anticipated.
Politicians face all kinds of cruel comments whether they do right or wrong. Some may say it comes with the job, but receiving serious threats to yourself and your family should not have to ‘come with the job’, no matter what line of work you are in.
Love Island and similar shows prompt discussions about the topic due to the extremely sad repercussions of trolls including their very own presenter Caroline Flack. Whilst the contestants are in a bubble away from the real world, family and friends have to see and deal with malicious comments about their loved ones on social media. Contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race across the world have had obscene hateful comments through their social media platforms as the shows have aired. This had led to some feeling that they have no option but to delete their social media accounts, where they publicise their work, content and projects, while things cool down.
For those who rise to fame very quickly, whether that is from entering professional sport, a new job appointment or by appearing on a reality TV show, it can be very difficult to adjust. Rising popularity, resulting in a significant increase in followers overnight, some of whom admire but other who criticise and abuse can be exhausting and have a serious effect on mental health.
What is being done to stop internet trolls?
The good news is that trolls can be found guilty of trolling if prosecuted under the Malicious Communication Act 1988 and the Communications Act 2003.
- Under section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988, those found guilty could face up to two years imprisonment
- Violation of Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, ‘improper use of a public electric communications network’, could lead to up to 6 months in prison and/or a fine
Public figure Katie Price has been campaigning to make online abuse a specific offence and to create a register of offenders. Being on the register would prevent convicted internet trolls creating new accounts. Price also hopes that the mere existence of the register may deter potential trolls from leaving hurtful comments.
In 2019, she received backing from a parliamentary committee to make online abuse a crime. This was after her son Harvey was victim to racist abuse and other online bullying, with videos mocking his disability. While he can’t fight for justice himself, his mum Katie continues to petition for adequate punishment and deterrence to stop online trolling.
Combating Trolling and Cyber Crime
The first thing to do when you see trolling online is to report it. It may be helpful to take a screenshot of the content before reporting so you have proof, especially if it is aimed at you.
Reporting a post on Facebook is simple. Clicking on three dots to the right-hand side of any post will show a dropdown where you can click ‘Find Support or Report Post’ and follow the instructions.
When there is a comment you wish to report, click it, or hold your finger on it if on mobile, and you will see the option to ‘Find Support or Report Comment’.
On Twitter, click the three dots next to a tweet on desktop, or the down-facing arrow next to a tweet and click Report Tweet.
Again, three dots next to a post will show an option to report.
If you receive a direct message, or ‘DM’, on Instagram that you wish to report, simply click on the message to report it.
Accusations of Cyber Crime or Trolling
The best way to avoid getting into a situation where you are accused of trolling or online abuse is to think twice about what you are saying online. Is it really worth it, and will it be hurtful to the recipient?
To quote the age-old saying, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.
If you are on the other side of an accusation and require guidance, our criminal defence team will be happy to speak with you about the consequences of cybercrime.