One evening last summer, shortly after the death of a reporter involved in the hacking enquiry, a well known ‘underground’ organisation hacked into a newspaper and ran a front page splash saying that the owner was dead.
The page wasn’t up very long, but I saw it along with several thousand others. And it made me very cross, because in my opinion, suggesting someone is dead – no matter how much you dislike them – is quite sick.
So me being me, I tweeted the organisation and told them what I thought. I had my mum voice on, because I know that a lot of this group’s members are in fact teenagers (a few have been arrested in recent months).
I was totally unprepared for what happened next.
Within seconds, I was being trolled by the organisation’s followers. They were calling me every name under the sun (they are not the most mature/literate bunch), they were saying horrible things, and at one point (although I was blocking the tweets as fast as they came) I was told that they’d posted my home address and phone number. In the space of an hour there were over 1000 tweets, all saying derogatory things to me.
Finally I tweeted ‘you’re going to make me trend if you carry on like this,’ and just like that it stopped.
But I can honestly say it was terrifying, the idea that all these strangers – kids or not – knew where I lived, and were attacking me personally.
The fact I’m not naming this organisation says it all, really.
Of course I’ve had experience of trolls before, and I’ve been bullied online by people who should know better, but not on such a scale. This was off the hook.
The thing is, I’m a grown woman, so up to a point I can take it. But for a kid being attacked online in the privacy of their bedroom, a place where they are supposed to feel safe, being attacked by anonymous bullies must be horrendous.
So today, Internet Safety Day, is a good reminder to talk to your kids about safety online, and what to do if they’re receiving horrible comments.
I know I’m going to.