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Trolling and cyberbullying

According to Internet sources, 'trolling' (also known as cyber bullying or Internet-bullying) is the anti-social act of causing personal conflict and controversy online. It has been named ‘trolling’ after the wicked troll creatures of children's tales.  In the early days of the Internet, it was labelled as ‘Flaming’.

Trolling is recognised as deliberately inflicting hatred, bigotry, racism, misogyny, or just simple bickering between others.  People who partake in ‘trolling’ are referred to as ‘trolls’.  They use any environment where they are allowed to make public comments, such as blog sites, social networks (like Facebook® and Twitter®), news sites, discussion forums, and game chat.

Unfortunately, trolling is a phenomenon that has swept across websites in recent years. Supporters argue it's about humour or freedom of speech. However, for some the ferocity and personal nature of the abuse causes great distress.

One of the first high-profile cases emerged in the US state of Missouri in 2006, when 13-year-old Megan Meier took her own life after being bullied online.

Internet experts say the key is not to "feed the troll" by offering them a response.

Is trolling an offence?

Persons engaging in Internet trolling are immediately committing an offence under the Malicious Communications Act.

The difficulty arises when identifying offenders in Internet trolling, as these offences tend to be committed using made up ‘usernames’ or fake profiles.

The Malicious Communications Act states:

  • Any person who sends a letter, electronic communication or article of any description to a person that conveys a message that is indecent or highly offensive, a threat or false information.  If the reason for that communication was to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person, then the sender is guilty of an offence.
  • This includes mobile phones and the Internet (any form of electronic communication).
  • The offence occurs whether those targeted actually receive the message or not.

What can I do about trolling or cyber-bullying?

Tips for addressing the issue

1) Some tips for initially addressing the issue of a troll could be:

a) Do not respond to the troll.
b) Block the troll.
c) Change your privacy settings.
d) Speak to a family member or friend and notify them of what has happened and how it may have affected you.

Reporting to the website being used

2) You should report the malicious behaviour to the website being used.

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