Pro Boxer vs Twitter troll. Boxer wins by first round KO. An example to us all.
by Ed Butt
A perfect lesson in how to deal with internet trolls was delivered by former footballer turned professional boxer Curtis Woodhouse. After being subjected to a persistent stream of abuse by an anonymous Twitter user going by the name of @Jimmyob88, Curtis decided to take matters into his own hands. Bypassing the chasm between the real and virtual worlds he offered a £1,000 reward to anybody who could give him @Jimmyob88's identity and address. Then he turned up on @Jimmy88's, doorstep and made him an offer the troll couldn't refuse. "Stop harassing me or get a right pasting".
When Woodhouse tweeted a picture of the troll's street sign, @Jimmyob88 capitulated, tweeting "I am sorry it's getting out of hand I am in the wrong I accept that". To the frustration of many onlookers who didn't want the troll to get away that easily, but to the credit of the boxer, Woodhouse let the matter drop at that.
Former amateur boxer and Cabinet Minister in the Labour government, John Prescott, who famously indulged in fisticuffs with a mullet man who threw eggs at him and former world heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis, a man no sane person would want to piss off were among the people who rejoiced in Woodhouse's actions on Twitter.
Here is a man who has addressed one of the most pernicious phenomenon of modem times. For too long, trolls have wreaked havoc in the lives and emotions of their victims, posting with only silly nicknames to identify them, assuming they are safe under the cloak of anonymity. Woodhouse demonstrated that anonymity can only go so far, and if you pick on the wrong person, your actions will catch up with you ... motherfucker. (I just wanted to add that in a Terminator voice.)
Although Woodhouse stepped back after making sure his troll needed an urgent change of underwear there have been others who have gone further. Last April, television Noel Edmonds (5' 6" 130lbs) – admittedly, hardly the macho type – went on the offensive after an anonymous Facebook user set up a page entitled "somebody please kill Noel Edmonds". Edmonds hired a firm called Web Sheriff to track down the person responsible, and found that it was a man at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent. Instead of calling the police, Edmonds set up a face-to-face meeting with the troll, and found him to be "terrified and remorseful" and more than ready to publish an apology.
The fightback against internet trolling made headlines back in September 2011 when Sean Duffy, of Reading, UK, was given 18 weeks’ imprisonment for defacing Facebook tributes to four dead teenagers whom he had never met. The abuse was vile: on a tribute page to Natasha MacBryde, who had committed suicide, he posted: “Natasha wasn’t bullied, she was just a whore.” About Lauren Drew, who died after an epileptic fit, he wrote: "I can’t get out of my coffin, I have scratched my nails to the bone. Help me Mummy, it’s hot in Hell."
The court heard Duffy led a miserable existence and, according to his lawyer, suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a condition that can make it hard to empathise with others. But his behaviour – while extreme – is similar to that of certain commenters on sites across the internet. Another notorious case, in 2008, saw a young American girl, Megan Meier, driven to suicide, it was claimed, by bullying on the social site MySpace.
A similarly extreme and very revealing story was reported last September by a blogger called Leo Traynor who had been subjected to months of vile anti-Semitic abuse. It began on Twitter but was spread to Facebook and the troll also published attacks on Leo's family. As most people must, Leo soaked it up. Encouraged by the passivity of his victim the troll ventured from the virtual into the real world.
"I received a parcel at my home address," Mr Traynor told reporters from mainstream media. "I ripped it open and there was a lunchbox inside filled with ashes along with a note saying, 'Say hello to your relatives from Auschwitz'. Mr. Traynor said he was physically sick.
Two days later, he opened his door to find a bunch of dead flowers with his wife's name on it. This was followed by a Twitter message describing in graphic detail the murder of Leo's wife . Mr Traynor was so disturbed that he spent nights watching over his family as they slept.
Like Noel Edmonds and Curtis Wodehouse, Leo Traynor after finding the police totally ineffectual used computer technology to track down his troll. It turned out to be somebody he knew; the 17-year-old son of a friend. Traynor confronted the troll and his parents, laid printouts of the offensive Tweets and photographs of the ashes and flowers in front of them and demanded an explanation. The boy responded "I don't know. I don't know. I'm sorry. It was like a game thing."
There we see an illustration of the problem, the internet is, as many sensible people have warned, blurring the line between reality and fantasy. Thus while some can claim to havge 'had sex' with multiple partners when all they have done is exchange messages which people whose real identity, age or even gender they do not know, others can convince themselves that the most vile and hurtful personal insults and threats are 'just a game'.
Such is the disconnect from the things that make us human, to the majority of trolls, the online world feels like a semi-real universe where anything goes and everything is merely a "game". Some abusive Twitter users who derive a sense of power from creating havoc in real people's lives by posting menacing messages without ever considering the people they intimidate as real humans with real feelings. For the majority however it seems, the abusive behaviour is a function of the twin allures of disconnection and anonymity, both of which are defining characteristics of the internet. The combination of anonymity and a sizeable audience is, it seems, hard to resist; it is easy to play the tyrant when nobody knows who you are and new identities can be created in a few minutes. Shine the spotlight on the trolls however, and they usually cave in, terrified by the prospect of their behaviour becoming known to their family, friends and colleagues.
There are signs it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to anonymity. While the biggst troll in the world, the U S government hints darkly at taking control of the internet to suppress all views that dissent from Brack Obama's globalist agenda, many internet users and service providers are facing up to the idea that if there is to be any freedom, if the neo - Fascist dreams of controlling this wonderful, potentially liberating medium are to be thwarted, internet users whether businesses or individuals have to understand that in cyberspace and the reality realm, SAME RULES APPLY. The law is the law and we cannot go around intimidating people.
With a moderate technical skills and co - operation from service providers, it is usually possible to trace a a troll or cyber bully to the real world, using perfectly legal methods. The more we track down and confront these people, and the more these actions are publicized, the more trolls will begin to think twice. Curtis Woodhouse lifted up a stone and the creature hiding under it shrank from the light.
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