I know what it’s like to be trolled by anonymous strangers

February 7, 2012

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.

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  • Mel (MilkChic Breastfeeding Fashion) February 7, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    Wow! What a horrible experience. You dealt with it well, by the sounds of it. I’m not sure I would have coped so well myself.
    As you say, scary as an adult. Terrifying for a child. Will be talking to my stepdaughter. Thanks.

  • DD's Diary February 7, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Sorry to hear about this, Liz, it sounds absolutely vile. I’ve only ever had a couple of nasty comments, but I found them surprisingly unsettling. How does anybody have the time/inclination to do these horrible things? I know I sound naive but I really don’t understand it.

  • Mummy Whisperer February 7, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    WOW, I’ve never heard of something that extreme happening to a ‘normal’ person, if you know what I mean.

    You’re comment about trending was inspired – you go girl! It is a good example of the fact that when we come across as very certain in ourselves, it can have a massive effect on stopping bullying – but that’s difficult to teach a young child who doesn’t have years of past experiences behind them.

    I heard someone say the other day that one of the most important things with kids is to make sure early on that they don’t keep secrets from their parents – not even in a joke between parents. Apparently, this is one of the key ways that predators can prey on our kids.

    One of my friends is a parent of teenagers and she made a deal with her kids that she would NEVER comment on their wall (however irritating the comments were), in return for not being banned. I think that’s an important lesson for us – to make sure that our kids keep trusting us so that we can be there for them when they need us.

  • Nikki Thomas February 7, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    I watched the Panorama program last night and tbh I was outraged by the stories on there and I really feel for you too as even as a confident adult, you can still be hurt and upset by these things. It is the lowest of the low, hiding behind a computer screen and bullying people and the thing about trolls righting disgusting messages on memorial sites was horrendous!

  • Crystal Jigsaw February 7, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    It’s one of the worst forms of bullying in my opinion because it’s “hidden” from view. It’s cowardly and completely soul destroying. I certainly haven’t been targeted to the extent you have but I have experienced it on a much smaller scale.

    I don’t allow Amy to use the internet apart from on her own user where it’s parental controlled. She doesn’t even know about Facebook, doesn’t have an email account and probably wouldn’t be interested anyway. Internet safety has become a huge problem for everyone.

    CJ x

  • Rachel G February 7, 2012 at 10:53 am

    What an awful experience for you. I can imagine it must be very terrifying to be attacked by hoards of people who don’t know you personally. They are nothing but bullies who think they can get away with it because they sit behind a computer screen.
    Like you said, you’re a grown woman…how on earth do kids handle this sort of attack? There really needs to be stricter rules and regulations in place as well as sufficient punishments!

  • Claire Meredith February 7, 2012 at 10:03 am

    Thanks for sharing this with us Liz.
    It highlights that it’s not just kids that this can affect.
    Like you said, you are a grown woman but I am sure it scared you.
    It’s awful to think what it does to a child who doesn’t know how to deal with it.