Online abuse affects men and women differently – and this is key to tackling trolls

Reblogged from The Conversation.

Video games, Jane Austen, and a Welsh footballer: it might seem these three have nothing in common, but all have been the basis for online abuse targeted specifically at women.

Of course, both men and women face harassment online, and some face it every day. But the cases involving Anita Sarkeesian and #GamerGate, Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaign for a woman on a British banknote, and threats toward Chloe Madeley after her mother Judy Finnigan’s comments about footballer Ched Evans, raise the question of whether there is an essential difference between what women and men face online.

While similar concerns are finally being reflected in the growing number of headlines on trolling and cyberbullying, those same thoughts have been echoing around the Internet and social media for years. Continue reading

Chris Grayling and the cyber-mob crackdown

The news over the past year has been dominated by stories about high profile figures such as Caroline Criado-Perez, Stella Creasy, Mary Beard, and Chloe Madeley being trolled, and in turn, individuals such as Isabelle Sorley, John Nimmo, and Peter Nunn receiving custodial sentences due to their online behaviour. Overall, the picture has generally been of a bleak situation growing ever worse, with few indications of how it is being remedied. Cue today’s Mail on Sunday, in which Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling announced a plan to quadruple the potential jail-time for trolls from six months (under the Malicious Communications Act 1988) to two years, and to give police more time to investigate trolling cases. Continue reading

Was Brenda Leyland really a troll?

Reblogged from The Guardian.

When three-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared from her hotel bedroom in Praia da Luz seven years ago, her parents could not have envisioned that, on top of the horror of their child’s disappearance, they might be faced with an unremitting barrage of online abuse, including threats of violence, murder and abduction of their other children.

Perhaps in hindsight it might seem obvious. Every major case – Princess Diana’s death, 9/11, even the birth of President Obama – seems to have its contingent of those who believe that a conspiracy of silence has descended on the police and the media, and that people high up are actively engaged in a whitewash so that the real facts never emerge. Those individuals spend hours of their time campaigning to have the “truth” recognised.

One of those individuals was Brenda Leyland. A well-spoken, middle-class, 63-year-old mother of two, who lived in a picturesque village. Leyland regularly took to Twitter to draw attention to what she felt was an appalling miscarriage of justice. Last week, she found herself revealed to the nation by a television news team who exposed her as a “troll”. But was she really a troll? Continue reading

Investigating the online abuse sent to the McCanns

This morning’s case of abuse received by the McCanns has once again brought to the fore common questions that are asked with regards to offensive and abusive online behaviour such as trolling. Those questions include things like: Why aren’t (more) trolls prosecuted? What can the police do? Why aren’t they doing it? And should the law be stricter? I address those questions briefly below. Continue reading