By Dr John Synnott
A DECADE has passed since the disappearance of toddler Madeleine McCann on holiday in Portugal, but activity online regarding the case is constant, with some of this commentary being directed in the form of abuse, a behaviour commonly referred to as ‘trolling’. It is estimated that every hour there are more than 100 tweets posted using the McCann hashtag.
Now, University of Huddersfield psychology researchers have entered the world of internet trolls and their abusive, aggressive language, directed towards those who disagree with them. Described in a new journal article, the project has led to a call for measures – including an end to pseudonyms on Twitter – that would curb the anonymity that enables cyber-trolling.
The work is featured in an online editorial headed “the dark side of social media” for the prestigious journal, Nature, and the research reinforces newly-revealed UK Government plans to curb cyber abuse.
The University of Huddersfield’s Dr John Synnott – who co-authored the new article in –
“There is absolutely a need for such precautions,” continued Dr Synnott. “Trolls are hiding behind the facility to be anonymous, which Twitter enables to a certain degree. Our research can contribute to an understanding and a reduction in trolling behaviour and one of the main interpretations is that the level of anonymity provided by certain social networking sites is a massive enabler.”
A key discovery of the research conducted by Dr Synnott, his Huddersfield colleague Dr Maria Ioannou and postgraduate student Andria Coulias, is that far from operating in isolation – as has usually been argued – trolls form “anti-social networks” that reinforce their behaviour. Also, media reports that condemn the trolls’ actions have the effect of “showering them with the very attention they appear to covet”.
and also in the Washington Post
Gerry McCann called for an example to be made of 'trolls', and this was the result:
All of these tweets were sent by PRO-McCann supporters:
Remember 'Rainne @ dirndlass'?
Today we can disclose some of the appalling comments sent to her. The first states: “Hoping you get beaten so bad you beg for mercy, only to have gasoline thrown on you and set ablaze.”
The next adds: “You have reached the end of your torturing campaign against the McCann family, understand.”
The third message is a direct threat against her life with the sadistic author stating: “Death is waiting and watching for u @sweepyface..Do you feel it????”
The next attack was so disgusting it is unsuitable for publication.
The last message states: “Sweepyface, we’re coming for you. Do you feel us?? The decent kind folk who pray for this family and their sad loss.You go to hell *****.”
McCann family spokesman Clarence Mitchell, responding to the alleged online death threats against Brenda Leyland, said yesterday: “We will not be commenting. It is a matter for the coroner.”
The late Brenda Leyland with her son Ben
'PRO-McCann Trolls be Cured'?
Will Dr John Synott be writing a follow-up article?
Yes, it seems that he is:
Mirror: "Dr Synott is now planning to extend the research by analysing the pro McCann camp."
Don't forget Brenda, Dr Synott.