Inappropriate humour landed 25-year-old Sean Duffy?in jail as he made vile posts on memorial sites on Facebook dedicated to dead children. The victims complained Duffy’s language caused shock and major distress.
According to social media analysts, such behaviour is called ?trolling?. Trolls try to provoke readers by posting in-appropriate or off-topic messages on an online forum. The accused admitted he was very keen on humiliating the others. Earlier he had mocked the death of a girl who committed suicide and hijacked tribute websites of three other children with obscene messages and videos, when the pages were actually set for condolences.
One of his targets, Natasha MacBryde, had thrown herself under a train on Valentine?s Day this year. The Facebook memorial page created by her brother was targeted by Duffy, where he called her a spoilt brat and posted vile comments including, ‘I fell asleep on the track lolz’. Following her death, he also created a Youtube video entitled “Tasha MacTank Engine” in which he put up a video in which the face of the girl was put on a train with “Thomas the Tank Engine” track playing in the background.
Natasha suffered some worst kind of abuse at her public school. Her suicide is believed to be fuelled by an abusive message that she received from an anonymous bully on a social networking website called Formspring. She had also often been teased by members of an all-girl clique at her school.
Another of Duffy’s targets was Lauren Drew, who died this January due to an epileptic fit at her home in Gloucester. He posted images called ‘Lauren’s epifit’ and ‘Lauren’s rotting body’ and also created a YouTube video with a picture of a coffin saying ‘Happy Mothers Day’.
Jordan Cooper, a 14-year-old boy, was stabbed to death in Newcastle upon Tyne by his uncle in February this year. The murder victim was also lampooned by Sean Duffy who created a page called ?Jordan Cooper rest in pieces?. Duffy also created a YouTube video containing pictures of his eyes crossed out and slashes across Jordan?s face.
It can be argued that humour is running in Duffy?s family. His father John Duffy, a BBC comedy writer, has found a lot of success from a Twitter account ‘@Cheryl Kerl’ set up to parody famous British singer Cheryl Cole. It became an instant hit soon after its launch. When asked about his son?s actions, Mr. Duffy said it is an attention-seeking act. “He was getting a lot of response and reaction from doing it. He didn?t understand the far-reaching implications of what he was doing,” he elaborated.
Duffy has been sentenced to 18 weeks in jail. He has also been banned from using social networking sites for five years. Duffy has also been barred from creating and/or accessing social network sites including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bebo and Myspace and if he buys any phone with internet access he needs to inform the police.
Reports said the Reading Magistrates’ Court?is also taking three other cases of Facebook trolling into consideration.
Lance Whiteford,?Duffy’s lawyer, said: “In terms of mitigation, there is none. I cannot imagine the trauma and anxiety caused to the families of these horrible, despicable offences.? Whiteford added that his defendant suffered from Asperger’s syndrome and lived a “miserable existence”, drinking alcohol alone at his home. “The condition leaves the absence of theory of the mind, quintessentially the ability that makes us human.” Asperger?s Syndrome is a milder form of autism. They are known to not have the same Theory of Mind, possessed by those without the disorder and thus have more difficulty in empathising with their peers.
The parents of one of the victims have criticised Facebook for not doing enough to tackle the problem after it was revealed that one girl was wrongly accused of committing suicide. She had taken a drug overdose but survived. Mark Drew, father of Lauren Drew, called for social networking sites to take more responsibility for content. “Facebook is very hard to get hold of in this situation. You can report these things but there?s no one to actually speak to,” he said in his statement to the press. He criticised the content policy of the social networking site: “It comes up, it?s removed and then it reappears. These days children live on Facebook, it?s their lives and they?re just so vulnerable.”
Sean Duffy, who lives in Reading, Berkshire in the UK was caught for his disrespectful and inconsiderate actions when Ms. MacBryde?s family alerted the police. They then traced the false email accounts Sean used and submitted the proof. The 25-year-old man pleaded guilty to two counts of sending malicious communications, relating to Ms. MacBryde and three further offences were also taken into consideration.
Under the Malicious Communications Act, trolling is an offence that carries a maximum penalty of six months in prison.
Facebook was quick to post a comment: ?There is no place for trolling on Facebook. When abuse is reported to us, we react swiftly, and we will disable accounts that are found to be in breach of our terms.?
Sources: The Sun, The Daily Mail