Well, that’s an interesting twist. According to ask.fm, 98% of the posts that were ‘bullying’ Hannah Smith, who later committed suicide, came from the same IP Address she was posting as herself from. So, either she herself or somebody in the same household was posting all the abuse, not some anonymous troll. How very sad.
For as long as I can remember there have been trolls. Usually, they hide in a crowd. Back in the day, an anonymous voice would heckle those on stage who couldn’t see who was shouting at them and from where. Nowadays it’s easier with social media. Trolls can be extremely relentless and cruel as they hound people, quite literally, to death. They do it because it’s a ‘sport’ to them, and it’s all they’ve left to do because they are usually unable to join in with proper conversations.
I remember trolling from the days of CB radio, when anonymous voices would say terrible things to or about whoever they’d elected to pick on. And it’s now been highlighted on Twitter. The highlighting came because prominent media people got trolled with rape and death threats, and so the problem went ‘mainstream’.
Whatever the social media, from CB radio, through to Facebork, the trolls are there. I realised fairly early on that trolls are usually people who don’t have an ability to articulate an opinion on anything. They will pick on those that stand out by having a strong opinion on a subject that they just aren’t able to argue against. Like the person making anonymous abusive calls to a phoneline, they thrive on getting a reaction. It’s all they’ve got left, being unable to actually engage with anybody ‘on topic’ or in discussion. All advice is always to just put the phone down quietly without saying a thing. That way you don’t feed the trolls. There is nothing more exciting for a troll than hearing their victim getting angry, frightened or upset. If they get no response they move on to the next victim.
So, trolling people in the public eye gets a good response, and seriously feeds the trolls. The more they see their victims on the news and discussion programmes, the more excited they become. They’ve got the reaction they could only have dreamed of.
Left of centre stand-up comedians have employed a form of trolling and bullying for decades now. They use the ‘humour’ that works by just randomly putting a person’s name in the frame. They will say something of a personal or rude nature, pause, and then say (for example) “Ann Widdecombe“. The audience roll around with laughter at this ‘cheap shot’. Indeed Frankie Boyle basis much of his humour on wishing people dead complete with how he’d like them to die. And his audience think it’s hilarious.
This is why the general public are desensitised to bullying and trolling. The comedians have taught them it’s something to laugh about, to join in with and be a part of. It’s not.
The trolling of children has always happened, and always will. The difference is of course that the victim is young and immature and ill equipped to deal with the attack, compared to the likes of Ann Widdecombe.
It’s this immaturity we probably need to address with our campaigns of awareness in schools. It won’t stop the attacks, any more than ‘stranger danger‘ stops children being kidnapped. But, it might dramatically reduce the suffering, in the way that ‘stranger danger‘ has reduced the kidnappings.
At the same time as we educate the children we also need to have full and instant traceability to the individual doing the trolling and making the abuse.
Strangely, this means we need to have something the chattering classes hate. We need to more correctly and deeply monitor what people do on the internet. Until public figures became the victims, these were the chattering classes who wanted less monitoring and control, and bleated about there already being far too much. So, there’s a bit of confusion for them there.
With the suicide of Hannah Smith, they led the way with their moral outrage. The website Hannah was using was to blame, and that’s that. That’s kinda like blaming Ford or Vauxhall every time one of their cars is used by a bad driver to run somebody over. It’s not actually the website’s fault, it’s those using it.
Undeterred, the chattering classes have waged their campaigns and pushed out their rent-a-gob commentary and calls for burning at the stake, over the tragedy. There have been all but calls for lynch mobs to string-up the brothers running the site.
Then, in a very bizarre twist, it appears that all but four of the posts on Hannah Smith’s ‘timeline’ came from exactly the same IP Address. Now, an IP Address can represent one or more computers, of course, but, assuming that a ‘proxy server’ isn’t being used, it usually accurately represents only one location.
At the time of writing, this revelation is still playing out. However, on the face of it (at the time of writing), either Hannah was writing her own evil trolling messages, or somebody else in her home was. In this particular case, it was either a sibling calling upon her to drink bleach and die or she wrote the abuse herself.
If either possibility turns out to be true, then the owners of the site are certainly not to blame. If it turns out to be a sibling, then that needs to be dealt with, but I suspect they are now realising the full horror of what they did. If it turns out to have been self-penned, then that is extremely sad and we need to learn from whatever it was that Hannah was ‘projecting’ by abusing herself. Usually, there is something much deeper that probably still needs to get to the surface and to be dealt with by the authorities.
As a Facebork ‘friend’ of mine summed up brilliantly about the revelation that the abuse was being posted from Hannah’s IP address, “If that’s so then maybe those that ‘enlightened’ us with their knee jerk reactions might like to think again.”