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This page is entirely dedicated to the Richard Bacon documentary "The Anti-Social Network".  A long winded set of Fallacious Arguments broadcast on BBC Three as though they were a serious factual documentary.  It also covers the effects of The Communications Act 2003 Section 127 - Improper use of public electronic communications network (sections 1 and 2) and the mysterious Michael Fitzpatrick who along with the Daily Mail has been running a political campaign in favour of harsher penalties for internet trolls for some time.  It's a long article covering in detail everything Richard's documentary skipped over interspersed with a few random rants so here's an index

Omar Khayyám will begin... the documentary again.
The reductive fallacy that an increase in users equals an explosion in hate and historical user graph
Dick Bacon Boom screengrab 1 transcibed
Henry II and Incitement to Violence and the Serious Crime Act 2007
Inchoate offsenses and Sir Edward Coke
The Paul Chambers Robin Hood airport case
Earliest use and definition of the word Troll
Dick Bacon Boom clip of Richard Bacon's joke about Paul Daniels sawing off fingers
Richard Bacon, Britney and the Archers
Dorothy Parker and AA Milne - the problem of critics and childrent
More moans trom Dick Bacon Boom transcribed ...two are 48 days apart - hardly sustained vituperation
Peter Sissons and BBC bias?
Dick Bacon Boom on Beer and Pizza club that had ratings half usual for slot but it still got 2 series?
Richard Bacon has Dick Bacon Boom's tumblr account taken down
Richard Bacon child photos on twitter and his wife and parents ... how hard are they to find??
Dom Jolly children, phones and funerals
Twitter - how it works mathematically to decontextualise comments.
The retweet - every tweet retweeted > 50 times becomes detached from the conversation
The Georgia Varley case and manslaughter prosectuion
The Daily Mail Natasha MacBryde, Georgia Varley screengrab plug timeline
Malicious Communications Act 1988 and Protection from Harassment Act 1997
Death and going into Promotion
Promoting the dead - Malcolm Hardee, John Fleming, Bernard Manning and the dead as clients
The Public Order Act 1986
Mr Bean and Religious Hatred
The Communications Act 2003 Section 127 says there must be nothing offensive on the internet
Legal loophole that you cant libel the dead ...or can you?
Natasha MacBryde + Georgia Varley cases similar and Varley trolled after MacBryde - both DM stories?
Genuine accidents of timing that cause offense - Viz and Alexei Sayle
Jan Moir explains how she can be more inflamtory on paper than online as she isnt subect to section 127
Politicians excempt from ASA advertising standards of taste and truth ...and the blur of what is content
The Festival Fringe Society and the ASA
Megrahi RIP ...of course you're still allowed to hate if it is the right people
Two Minutes Hate
The Giggses
The case of the fake Hillsborough victim
The Monument and sectarian hate
The Holocaust Industry and Dad's Army
Princess Diana RIP porkies
Liam Stacey, Joshua Cryer and Stan Collymore etc
Lord Justice Leveson (yes, that one) and bird for actual violence
Convicting people for online Inchoate offences easier than solving real crimes?
Greater Manchester Police Christmas card ...hatemail?
Richard Bacon and Queen Mother RIP jokes
Tom Mullaney case - what the Inquest said and Richard Bacon didn't
Damon Evans reference 1
Dr Emma Short on Dick Bacon Boom
John Cleese on the problem with PC
Campaign to repeal the Public Order Act 1986 Section 5 - freedom to insult
Dr Emma Short again
More Dick Bacon Boom
IT Expert Paul
Ethical Issues of Entrapment
IT Expert Paul's leads
Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud claims she was bullied as a result of Chris Moyles jibes
Chris Evans and Richard Bacon vs Chris Moyless Moyles
Carner Bonner, mobile phones, park benches, toilet cubical walls and the small press
Carney Bonner transcript
Tom Mulaney yet again
Joey Deacon and Photoshop
Horatio Chapple - the Eton schoolboy savaged and killed by a Polar Bear
Facebook
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the USA
The British Schools Exploring Society
More Dick Bacon Boom
IT Paul's Honeytrap
Michael Fitzpatrick - troll hunter to the Daily Mail
Colm Coss
Dr Emma Short again
Damon Evans interview
The internet's not the place

Now that's done ...are you sitting comfortably? 
Then ...



Omar Khayyám will begin...

Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
Before us pass'd the door of Darkness through
Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover we must travel too.

For the uninitiated ..."The Anti-Social Network" was a documentary about how the internet needs to be policed more by the police in which (what for want of a better phrase) "media personality" Richard Bacon tells us that internet Trolls are bad and goes on a hunt to find his own troll. 

The only problem is that by the end of it it wasn't just the internet troll that hated Richard Bacon I did too - if that isn't a hate crime.  I felt a violent dislike of this seemingly nice man.  I did not understand quite why.
 
Okay, call me Mr Cynic but immediately I watched this program I suspected that in many places I was being told half truths or half stories.  So I set about to try to build up a better picture
.  It was clear Richard was a victim but I felt that by juxtaposing the behaviour of his own personal critics with that of the criminally convicted Richard had used a combination of selective observation, selective reading, non sequiturs, digression, misdirection, fast talking, straw men and special pleading  to reach a biased conclusion.  It takes quite a lot of mendacity to state that...

"As a broadcaster, a bit of abuse comes with the territory, and in no way am I comparing what I was exposed to with the shocking levels of abuse directed at the grieving families I met"

...and then spend an hour of primetime television doing just that.

That said some things he said made a lot of sense and yet...  I felt a lot of what he said seemed to be misdirection.  I also wondered how it got to be commissioned - did Richard want to do a documentary on his troll or did the BBC look for someone trolled to do a documentary ...or was it somewhere in between?  While Richard had some genuine complaints I couldn't help feeling that investigating himself was leading to a lack of objectivity?

So out of curiosity I slowed the documentary down and went through it frame by frame to study the arguements and the evidence on the screens
that otherwise you can only see for microseconds... to see if I could see another side to the stories...



Loser.  Hate. Stupid.  And such words fill the screen before a young lady by the name of Charlie informs us that "James says I should got fuck myself because no one else will".  Someone else says "Ben said I'm a wierd loser and should go die" and someone else says "Alex says everyone hates me and I should leave school."  We are also informed by someone called Jenna that "Jodi thinks I dont fit in and that I'm (in quotes) 'fat-tastic'". 

No one suggests that any of the above might actually be accurate critiques of the said persons or that some of them might have prompted the above responses by knowingly antagonising anyone.  And none of this is ever contextualised. 

But remember this is a modern documentary.  Fast cutting and immediate shock tactics are required to grab the audience from the first frame as this is BBC3 and they cannot be expected to have any attention span.

Mr Richard Bacon then introduces himself with

"Hello, I'm Richard and Dick Bacon Boom thinks I'm a (lady's most private parts) and wants me to die". 

Being the BBC the word (lady's most private parts) is redacted even though this is going out after the watershed.

Richard then informs us that in the last couple of years there's been a massive
explosion in online 




This is, of course, reductive fallacy.  Richard provides no empirical evidence to show that in the last couple of years the internet has become more or less vituperative or hatefilled than it ever was.  Although it is, of course, possible that it has ...but Richard has not shown this.  So might I suggest the more logical analysis that the problem is not that the Internet is and more hatefilled and spiteful than it used to be...



I stole this off Google like their cars steal unsecured wifi

...there are just more people on it! for whom being trolled is and trolling is a new and exiting experience.



However, let's move on...

Richard further informs us as if it were Gospel that "Bullies and Trolls use fake identities on social networking sites to torment, harass and abuse and they do it the coward's way.  They are hiding behind a keyboard.  Their annonymity means there's no boundaries".



Of course as these German people have discovered being anonymous or wearing a mask can give one more licence to be ...shall we say ... unusual.  But as we shall see the charge of anonymity in trolls is actually a bit of a generalisation.  Throughout the documentary Richard seeks to confuse his anonymous troll who he keeps trying to get banned from different online communications platforms
only for him to pop up on another one with all other online trolls - some of whom are annonymous and some of whom are not.  We shall examine the morality of anonymity in writing later but for the moment let's push on... suffice to say Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Orwell, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Lewis Carroll, Voltaire, Pablo Neruda, Daniel Defoe, Joseph Conrad and Brian Damage all write under or actually are pseudonyms.  People who feel that it is somehow more sensible to say things to people's face rather than indirectly are, in my view, a bit mentally retarded or have never actually said anything. Ironically most of the data for this documentary was compiled by a troll hunter (or Witchfinder General depending on your point of view) using fake IDs.  But let's move on...

As the screen intercuts between the Daily Mail messageboard,  Facebook and Twitter deliberately confusing multiple communication platforms as though they all suffer the same problems Richard now adds that

"I've spent the last 3 months in the virtual world on the hunt for Britain's haters".
(all Richard's statements will be in purple)

At this point we see our first screenshot of Richard's nasty troll Mr Dick Bacon Boom (all Dick Bacon Boom's statements will be in blue).  However much of  the screenshot is too blurred to read and several presumably naughty words have been redacted with fuzziness although we can see...

Dick Bacon Boom : I'm not a violent man generally but when I see Richard Bacon I want to stamp on his head.

This is a statement of fantasy violence.  Or is it an incitement to violence against the person of Richard? This is at the nub of Richard's legitimate complaint. 

Richard then informs us that only he's found nasty videos that mock the dead and that he's talked to grieving families devastated by horrific images and messages posted about their loved ones and as if to affirm the consequant we move directly from Richard's troll to someone saying that

"That's my son there.  They've no right.  No right and the internet should be able to stop them from doing that".

(This is Tom Mullaney's dad but we dont know that yet...)

Accompanied by an online photo of a child who's eyes have been crudely paintshopped red

We then cut back to a screenshot of Mr Dick Bacon Boom's twitter feed as if to insinuate they are one and the same and the issues are the same.  Mr Dick Bacon Boom is actually saying the slightly less revolting...

Dick Bacon Boom :Most people can work and listen to the radio at the same time, dumbass (Richard's show goes out during the working day)

Dick Bacon Boom :If you're near Victoria Sq in Birmingham PLEASE go and throw something at Dick Bacon (22nd Dec)


Dick Bacon Boom : DIck Bacon is SOOOO pleased with the intros in the Chart the Week ... dont think he realises he sounds even more like Alan Partridge (17th Dec)

...although it does contain at least one statement that could be construed as an ...

"incitement to violence"

Incitement to violence is the real nub of Richard's complaints against Dick Bacon Boom.  What constitutes an expression of anger and what actually constitutes an incitement to violence has been a problem since ... Henry II "accidentally" incited a lot of Knights to kill Beckett by shouting "who will rid be of this turbulent priest?"



When does a statement of desire become an actual incitement to violence?  Does a continual stream of statements of desire become more than one individual one?  Or is one enough?  Most people feel like killing someone else from time to time - it would be a bit absurd for this never to be articulated? ... or to try and criminally convict everyone who articulates it in public.  For example if I was to say I want to kill Noel Edmunds (which I dont as he hasn't dropped any of my relatives off a crane) does that mean that I actually want to kill him or is it an emotional expression of frustration...?  What if I just wish him to come to accidental harm or wished an ovarian cyst on someone in the manner of Doug Stanhope when he cant win an argument with Allison Pearson (famous for her witty articles on how to prevent too many oriental people going to Oxford and Cambridge which are in no way racist and ignorant of the fact that it is overseas students who financially subsidise the UK ones)?

If saying that you want to kill someone or you want harm to come to someone or you want someone to die is now illegal a lot of comedians are going to have to change their sets?  But is it?  And does that apply universally over stage, page, TV, film and the internet?

Well, as we shall see there are actually completely different laws for different communication platforms.  I have to say that it was a probably a bit dumb of me but I didn't realise this until I investigated it.


Gentle readers of the Pear Shaped Comedy Club website all being passive and thoughtful souls are probably not aware but the well known common law offense of incitement to violence does not any more actually exist.  It was abolished on 1 October 2008 when Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 came into force, replacing it with three new statutory offences of encouraging or assisting crime.  This sort of merged the offence of assisting in crime with the offense of incitement to crime - although you may wish to consult someone who knows what they're actually talking about. 

These kind of offenses are known legally as "Inchoate offences" - or illegal acts yet to be committed ... in short "thought crimes".  In order for an inchoate offence to be committed there must be an Actus reus and a Mens rea. 

Actus res is the Latin term for the "guilty act"
Mens rea is the Latin term for the "guilty mind"

In short the writer must intend harm in their mind and this must be capable of resulting in a physical manifestation of criminal activity. 

So it is possible that Dick Bacon Boom may be able to claim that although he has imagined someone throwing things at Richard Bacon an actual crime has not been committed because he didn't seriously say this with the intention of anyone throwing things at Richard Bacon.

The term "Actus Res" was coined by Sir Edward Coke who is best remembered for his witty and much neglected epigram "actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea" which in English means...




...deciding which exhortations to violence are emotional outbursts and which are intended to cause harm to the person being attacked in this way and whether, indeed, there is a difference between saying you wish harm to come to someone, saying you wish people to harm someone and actually harming them yourself is an extremely subjective and grey area.  It was recently the subject of the infamous Robin Hood airport case in which the "cream" of the twitterati ...



....asserted that Paul Chambers should not be fined because his actions created no realistic threat to security or the general public and there was no Mens Rea.  Although one could make a convincing argument for fining him on the grounds of him being a stupid man who wasted a lot of public money through sheer thoughtlessness.  Stephen Fry was first in line to say he would be willing to go to prison for "banter".  Of course Mr Chambers who was fined, lost two jobs, was banned from flying and received a criminal conviction for the "flippant" tweet is a middle class pillar of the community and as such his "freedom of speech" is probably easier to be seen to be defending than that of some of the more ...erm ... underclassy and bigoted featured on this page.


A decontextualised bland woman then states that she would seek information and advice from the police authority but not about what.

Richard informs us that a couple of years ago a new word entered our vocabulary "trolling". 



Actually the earliest actual use of the word in the context of the internet that the OED could find was 1992.  That said I had my first email account in 1996 and no one was on it except my boss which was a bit dull.  Suffice to say that Richard's implicit assertion that trolling is a phenomenon a mere couple of years old is a bit inaccurate and move on... (here's another definition I found floating round the internet ether)

Richard then tells us that the sole purpose of trolling is to antagonise and attack everyone from grieving families to people in the public eye



This is of course a straw man.  Richard has caricatured people who use the internet to criticise public figures and people who use the internet to insult the memories of grieving families as one and the same as if there were no range of differing motivations or circumstances surrounding individual cases.  He has also conflated his critic/troll with the most vicious, spiteful, malevolent and criminal cases he could dig up.   And, of course, he's insinuated that every troll is out to provoke for its own sake.  Whereas actually they may be trying to say something or there may be a grey area where they are doing both.......?

We then move to a shot of Richard in his studio where he informs us that:

I've had a troll for 2 years.  He first appeared when I began introducing a new show on Radio 5 live.  From the off he made it clear he hated the show and he hated me and that's fine you expect criticism in my line of work and you know that some people aren't going to like what you do but this guy was particularly obsessive".

This is Richard Bacon's frequent refrain.  I can take criticism but not continually and from one person.  He may have a point.  Continual harassment is hard to defend.  But it all becomes a bit blurred when, like Richard Bacon, you are both a person and a product.  There's no doubt there are problems when one is both... for example ...I was once banned from posting under my own name on the Money Saving Expert forums on the grounds that since I have a public profile it must be a form advertising for me to post under my own name.  Yes, bizarrely there are websites which insist as a matter of course their posters are anonymous which is clearly very responsible and logical.  Maybe Richard has a point here... Given Dick Bacon Boom so clearly hates his show why does he listen to it... What kind of person continually endures a show they so clearly hate by choice?



Well, Richard's show is on during the day so it could be someone at work ...or...?

Of course it has to be pointed out too that Richard Bacon is not exactly inoffensive or unopinionated himself either.
 

Another screenshot of Bick Bacon Boom's twitter account reveals this:

Dick Bacon Boom :Fantastic Dick Bacon Boom clip
http://audioboo.fm/boos/323312-bacon.

I think this link was to an audio clip of Richard Bacon's standup routine (performed for charity?). 
Actually the link has been removed but following back to the source of the link I did find another... by (presumably) the same poster who seemed to have a genuine? problem / complaint about this item poking fun at Paul Daniel's misfortune...

boox/633660-richard-bacon-210112



Paul Daniels in the days when he had fingers

...in this clip Richard Bacon does an item called "what is your tenuous connection to a news story?" which is won by Paul at "Ideas Sound and Vision" who's company specialises in home automation and quoted Paul and Debbie for a multi room music and home automation system.  A quote he rejected as a rip off*... 

*Rip offs are something Debbie and Paul know a lot about

"Perhaps now 'a finger down' he's regretting the decision not to have his lights turn on and off automatically" 


Tasteful.  It seems Richard Bacon himself likes a good old fashioned sick joke at the expense of the recently injured... Also he seems to have rather extreme views about older people as demonstrated in this article about the Archers.... where he describes the program as "'Boring, aimless and listened to only by those who wish to appear superior.”   Richard has by my count 1,425,319 followers ...it surely shouldn't be too hard to find one who really doesn't like him if you want to.  Richard is according to the Independent ...if not the 2nd most followed... the "second most influential person on twitter in the UK" ...and uses the site to assiduously market himself to the public.  Fair enough - that's what it is for - but a large plank of Bacon's argument revolves around the premise that his interaction with his troll is all one way. 

It also undermines another plank of his argument that is - that celebrity baiting is wrong.  I mean, this is the same Richard Bacon who's been harassing Britney Spears for years by insinuating that he married her on the Big Breakfast in 2002 every time he wants to cash in on her fame? But that doesn't matter as Britney does not suffer from any mental illness and is clearly not emotionally vulnerable.

Mr Bacon then bemoans that he has come home to find a barrage of abuse mainly on twitter. 

"He'd always post under a made up nickname and currently calls himself DICK BACON BOOM!

Of course this may be partly because Mr Bacon has had Mr Dick Bacon Boom's previous accounts deleted.  Richard claims in his promotional material for the show that he came accross his troll when googling his own name and that then his troll "took to twitter".  However, what he doesn't say is that his troll took to twitter after he had persuaded tumblr to delete his blog.  This puts a slightly different complexion on things and may go some way to explain (if not excuse) the escalation of anger. 
Of course it is also only an inference that these are all the same people from their prose style.  An inference is not a fact.  That said they probably are the same person.  But maybe there is more than one Baconhater.

Richard's troll feels that he has been censored for daring to criticise Mr Bacon.  Mr Bacon also insinuates that his troll "
was fantasising about my death, daydreaming about me dying in a plane crash, and expressing his hope that my body would be mangled in a car wreck".  We shall be examining these claims individually.  Mr Bacon also insinuates that these comments were on the blog whereas actually they seem to have been on the twitter account.

Of course it is possible that Mr Bacon did not deserve the level of vituperation his troll aimed at him but there is a strong historical tradition of reviewers and critics carrying on near personal vendettas against the subjects of their articles. 
For example Dorothy Parker had a long standing and extremely vituperative artistic vendetta against the superficially inoffensive AA Milne.



As Christopher Milne was still a child at that time satirising AA Milne could be construed by Ms Parker's critics as "bullying children". To complicate matters Christopher Robin Milne actually was bullied as a result of having his childhood put so firmly in the public domain and wrote about these experiences in "The Enchanted Places" ISBN 978-0-14-003449-3 ...complicated



One also has to wonder how particularly vituperative reviewers of the more recent past would get on in this brave new world - for example Victor Lewis-Smith who seemed to not exactly be on jolly terms with most of the rest of the world and in particularly not jolly about Esther Rantzen.  To prove my thesis here's a piece of fantasy violence  from a Lewis-Smith TV review of the early 1990s published in the London Evening Standard then under the direct editorial control of Associated Newspapers (who also publish the Daily Mail):

"I suspect that American Universities offer PhD courses on Selling your book on This Morning, because some US pseudo-psychologist pops up on the show every other day.  Book number three was by a Californian couple - grinning like glassy-eyed Scientologists - who gave great advice on bringing up baby.  Their own looked utterly miserable and made a noise resembling a Harrier Jump jet with faulty gaskets, so they were obviously experts.  Spend every waking and sleeping moment with your baby, they said and never smack them.  All right, no smacking babies then, but how about child psychologists?"

These reviews were so popular they were republished in the volume "Inside the Magic Rectangle" (ISBN-10: 0575061197).  The reproduction of this piece of fantasy violence on the internet rather than in a book or newspaper is a possible violation of the Communications Act 2003 section 127.  It is clearly an incitement to hit all child psychologists and cannot be disguised as wit? 

While I'm cogitating on it wasn't Richard Bacon actually on the late night TV review program of Mr Lewis-Smith's called "the Vicious Circle" (a reference to Dorothy Parker who's prose style Lewis-Smith clearly aimed to emulate) the sole purpose of which was to be a TV program criticising TV in the most acerbic way?  A difficult trick to pull off without turning into an ouroboros unless you are Harry Hill.

The most entertaining writing in the world is seldom the most fair or balanced.  Of course these days anyone can be a critic and there are entire websites devoted to nothing else ... so why pick on Dick Bacon Boom as particularly nasty?


We then cut to a messageboard where we read

i-hate-richard-bacon why he's a **** reason 442

"So, a more formal welcome to the show".  That's his catchphrase.  Or it's what he's desperately trying to make his catchphrase.  May had "next up, The Mighty Drive" at the end of the show.  So Bacon (or his producer) thought "fuck we need a catchphrase, but let's not put it at the end of the show, let's put it at the start".  Brilliant work you silly little *** but what the fuck does it mean, for God's sake?"

I have to admit to some ignorance as to what either of them mean.  We now cut to a Facebook page with a picture of Richard Bacon entitled "I hate Richard Bacon" who's words were indistinguishable apart from the following ... not all of which are fully legible ....on a screengrab I did pick up...

Richard Bacon shot a man in R? just to watch him die? (July 31)

This Z list ejit recons there are too many disabled parking bays at supermarkets and stores... yeah should have bays removed with a big Z in them for him and others of the lucky but talentless (October 21)

"These are some of the older tweets he sent me" intones Richard Bacon.  "These are from the early days".

These tweets are also made
indistinguishable. 

Looking at two adjactent tweets one is marked 9th of Feb and the next adjactent 29th of March which I make an interval of at least 48 days - hardly sustained vituperation.  We cant really read either very well but one says (some gaps where text is unreadable or redacted).

Mr Bacon reads Dick Bacon Boom:

"...is making a ...Peter Sissons right now .... also ... did I mention that I fucking hate Richard Bacon and that he should go fuck himself."



Mr Bacon fails to add "and get off the air."

On a scale of 1 to **** how much of a **** is Richard Bacon

This is a reference to Peter Sissions being interviewed about his autobiography in which he makes vociferous statements about institutional media bias at the BBC.  So there is a political issue at stake here.  These comments are not quite simply a personal attack on Richard Bacon (although there is that too).

Fuck I was hoping to get back from my hols to find Dick Bacon either sacked or dead.  Neither it seems  SAD FACE!  BOOM!

Richard, forever the soul of tolerance, informs us (despite the fact it obviously did bother him) that

The fact he was posting rude, crude and violent messages day after day month after month didn't particularly bother me at first.  When you're a broadcaster having people hate you goes with the territory ...

We see another fleeting glimpse of Dick Bacon Boom's twitter feed which actually reads

@Beer_Pizza_Club wake up and remember what you do for a living

@bbc5live please get rid of cock ache

@richardbacon are you on drugs with my radio? ...you're sounding...

Richard Bacon then scrolls back down the page till we arrive at the Peter Sissons comment.  Suggesting that perhaps the volume of comments isn't as vociferous or large as Mr Bacon seems to opine. Even taking Mr Bacon's statement that over the 3 month period of the documentary his troll wrote 255 vituperative tweets that's still less than 7,500 words or 625 words a week (so the equivalent of half a newspaper article every week).

Also at this point I had begun to wonder (as Richard only seems to at the end of the documentary) if this critic is truly an ordinary member of the public or someone Richard knows.  Is this someone trying to settle a professional score or a jealous fellow professional.  I know hard to imagine that anyone in entertainment could be bitchy but according to Broadacast magaine...



 ...The first ten-part series of Richard Bacon's Beer and Pizza Club averaged an audience of 121,600 (0.58%) on Wednesday nights at 10pm – less than half the 2010 slot average of 245,400 (1.25%).  Could this be someone trying to run a legitimate political campaign against rubbish TV and radio?

The" are you on drugs with my radio?" comment is, of course, a reference to the infamous Blue Peter incident.

...but increasingly his posts became more personal, more strange.  He fantasised about my dying in a plane crash and my body being mangled in a car wreck.

One day I actually got into a conversation with him as well on twitter which was a mistake ...and he just sent me a load of abuse ...I'm trying to rationalise now ... Erm .... My wife tried to rationalise with him at one point when he tweeted her to look at this fan site and she opened it and there was all this horrible stuff including fanticising at my death.  She tried to rationalise with him as well.

We then see a fleeting glimpse of a screengrab again which when you freeze frame it actually reads

Oh and he also had my blog --hate-richard-bacon tmblr taken down.  Even though he says he embrases criticism cos it means he isn't bland.

...and he just sent her a load of horrible personal abuse

At the top of the twitter page we can just see

any Dick in my ears that ....

Richard?  PS I hope your plane crashes. 

And at the bottom is a link to the now deleted audio clip.  Given the volume of vituperative material why is it Mr Bacon keeps showing the same few tweets?

These tweets are dated 29th of March.  A whole year before the documentary.  Furthermore it is obvious that far from abstractly fanticising about Mr Bacon's death in a plane crash as Mr Bacon seems to insinuate his critic is simply commenting on one of Mr Bacon's comments that he is going somewhere on a plane...?

Mr Bacon now says that Mr Dick Bacon Boom also knows a lot about his wife.  Insinuating that Mr Bacon keeps some kind of iron curtain or veil between his public and private life.  I found this a particularly surreal claim given that a quick flit through the pictures on Mr Bacon's twitter feed reveals a great deal of his personal life.  I dont know if his wife is on there as I did not find Mr Bacon's personal and professional life sufficiently stimulating to persevere but I did find several pictures of his children as babies with very little effort.




(Mr Bacon's offspring with his identity protected)

Slightly irresponsible behaviour I thought for a man who claims to be persecuted by potentially violent weirdos.
Still that's his own choice.

I never say what my mother's twitter address is and he found that out.

Well, it's quite easy to find out who Mr Bacon's wife is (Rebecca McFarlane marketing manager of Capital FM) as their marriage was featured in the Daily Mail.  And it didn't take me long to find out that Richard's dad was a solicitor and that

richard bacon‏@richardpbacon



Have taken my parents' dog to the Whitby Regatta Prettiest Lady Dog competition. Who needs St Tropez? (I do).

So it's not like he isn't putting his entire extended family into the public domain.  

Putting your family and photos of them squarely in the public domain then claiming that your relatives have been threatened or your children bullied because someone dared to comment on an image of them you publicised is a media profile raising technique known as doing a Dom Jolly.... the faded TV prankster who pioneered the technique of forcing your sprogs down other people's throats on the internet then calling people weirdos when they dare to satirise you for it.  Children are very useful to celebrities as they can be used to say
things one wouldn't say and/or promote all kinds of stuff and no one can slag them off because that is "bullying children" - much the accusation Dorothy Parker had to endure when she reviewed The House at Pooh Corner... and she wrote under a "pseudonym" ...



One wonders too if this is the same Dom Jolly who appeared on Britain's Funniest Comedy Characters stating that he'd have liked to have done his large mobile phone gag at a funeral but "we couldn't find anyone who was up for it"

Some more screenshots read

Still got this one though ****** fucker

@richardpbacon had my other accounts suspended @dickpbacon and @richardppbacon WHAT A PUSSY!  Can't take a joke, Richard?

@riachrdpbacon is making a massive twat of himself infront of Peter Sissions now on 5 live what *****

http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/showthread.php?t=1274091
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00dzhwy

...as soon as he started to draw my family into his hatreds I asked twitter to take down his accounts but he just created another account under a different name

 


Of course the great thing about twitter in particular is that it is designed specifically to only show half of a conversation at a time 

(apologies to anyone who fully understands the internal mathematical and psychological logic of twitter already you may skip this bit but I've left it in because, well, it did my head in for ages).

I used to think this was unintentional but since I've started to actually use twitter I've realised that it is actually the reverse - the entire point in twitter is it allows people to actually talk to themselves while imagining they're engaged in a conversation.  But the actual conversations on twitter are extremely hard (sometimes impossible) to see.  This is a genius piece of psychology




Basically what has been done in the invention of twitter is to take the concept of a blog and turn it into a "micro blog".  The limitation of the thread system of a php or other internet forums was the incovienience of having to follow an argument and the tendency of people to go off topic... by limiting the number of letters in any particular post twitter removes the need for threads or topics and replaces them with a web of interconnectivity instead - removing the inconvenience of actually having to read other people's thoughts... This makes twitter an extremely powerful promotional tool as it relies much more on interaction and emotion than logic or discussion.  It's not that many communication platforms that are so powerful that journalists write to you out of the blue to ask you why you're NOT on it...?

The reason I was asked why I'm not on twitter is politicians seem to love it ...for exactly the above explained reasons.  It allows them to communicate with a lot of people while concealing or obscuring any actual conversations.  For example if you look at my MP (Gavin Barwell)'s twitter profile you will see something this.




Gavin seems to be answering a lot of questions.  Jolly good that's what MPs are supposed to do... but we cannot follow any particular conversation without clicking on a specific "View Conversation" tab.  This means that only the highly motivated can follow any conversation on twitter. 

Actually in this small snippet we can see 3 conversations going on.  One about football, one about the closure of the Warehouse Theatre and one about the editor of Inside Croydon calling George Osborne a ponce and to what extent this is homophobia or political rough and tumble.  Gavin likes a good row and these frequently disolve into outright insults and even into veiled threats when he's very cross but he's yet to be prosecuted or cautioned under section 127.

In order to actually follow a conversation you have to hit on a tab and then you can see...




...an actual conversation in which Mr Barwell purports that the Council had been bailing out the Warehouse Theatre for years when actually they've only been financially supporting it for 6 months (long story).  The point is simply it's extremely hard to find and follow conversations on twitter, particularly old ones and particularly ones where accounts have been deleted. 

Ideal then for politicians and personalities who want to be seen saying things but not neccessarilly to be remembered for saying them.  It also allows one to opt in and out of a lot of different conversations at random without seeming rude... this saves one the inconvenience of telling someone they are a bore or having to admit that you've said something that's twaddle. 

Combining this phenomenon with the retweet facility means that most people end up actually reading half a conversation - the half that is most retweeted.  And the half most likely to be most retweeted will be the half written by the person with the most followers.  Indeed, I've noticed that if a particular tweet is retweeted >50 times it seems to become actually disconnected from the conversation thread that spawned it.  I'm not sure how this works technically but the point is...

It's an ideal platform for decontextualising quotes since some effort has to be indulged in to study and actually understand the actual patterns of interaction on more than one or two interacting twitter feeds.  The entire point of twitter is that is not just a connection of mini-blogs but a matrix allowing for "trending" and "re-tweeting" (literal repetition of what someone else has just said for people who dont want the inconvenience of generating original thoughts)... all this may seem obvious to you but it wasn't to me till I actually forced myself to start using the thing so apologies for being stupid.



(the re-tweet - the ideal mechanism for people who want to be seen saying original stuff
but dont want the inconvenience of generating original thoughts)



On the other hand having fans of one's content is extremely flattering ... and that's the point.  Of course the retweeting mechanism allows multiple people to be drawn rapidly and in great numbers to any controversial conversation of comment.  The re-tweet facility combined with the decontextualised nature of any particular re-tweet makes twitter an ideal platform for the generation of mass hysteria and witch hunting



Allowing everyone to come together in a frenzy of censorious hate againts those stupid enough to say the wrong thing loudly.  To the tactless twitter is like having your own personal Greek chorus.



These Greek Choruses are a particularly useful mechanism for generating more traffic.  In, for example, an old fashioned PHP forum users must click on a thread that interests them and make some effort to follow a particular conversation before entering into a pre-existing conversation.  On the twitter main timeline which each user sees when logging on ...one sees

all tweets of people one is following in real time
the most re-tweeted decontextualised comments by people one is not following
someone someone else one is following if they are retweeted

The retweeted comments and replies  are often the middle of conversations rather than the beginning or the end meaning it is much less likely for anyone to follow a conversation.  On twitter there is no topic - just a sprouting tree of interconnected individual conversations. 



The only logical solution to this situation of being confused by everyone else's interconnectivity is to do an Adam Bloom and follow no one!


We now cut to a screenshot of a
Daily Mail article about Georgia Varley the young girl who unfortunately fell under a train.  I'm not sure why but it seems from the inquest that Georgia had been to a party with some friends to celebrate an 18th birthday.  She then attempted to get back on the train while it was moving out the station and fell down a gap and was killed.  Immediately her RIP site was set up on Facebook it was "deluged" with sarcastic comments.  An mighty rumpus ensued with the Daily Mail running articles on the trolls.  Who could make comedy out of such a tragic situation?  Imagine daring to suggest that her high heels might be to blame?  And what function could satirising this accident fulfill?  Well, at least one person -



Christopher McGee, 45, the train guard is being charged with the manslaughter, by gross negligence for what appears to be a woman who was drunk falling under a train that was already moving?  Maybe he is at fault but I've got to say - does this usually happen every time someone falls under a train?  Is not the outbreak of sentimenatality over the death this young girl in danger of causing an innocent man to be scapegoated?  Also it has to be said that while Ms Varley's parents have had a horrific thing happen to them they do come out with exactly the kind of bland comments about how their daughter was particularly fun loving that comedians have been satirising for years.  Still, maybe she was and funerals aren't the time for total veracity?  Also it takes I would have thought an extreme quirk of fate or a particularly unusual circumstance to fall under a train that's already moving now they all have sliding doors ... how exactly was she trying to get back on?  Short of hanging on the outside like Harold Lloyd?  That is not a joke.  I would never write any on such a serious topic.



Swept up by the maelstrom of hysteria MP Steve Rotheram is pursuing changes in the law to propose harsher penalties for those who post sarcastic and nasty messages online. 


Anyway... call me Mr Conspiracy theorist but is it not just possible that the Associated Newspapers knew when they put the Georgia Varley story in their national paper that Georgia Varley's RIP page might be subject to the same kind of attacks as happened to the
Natasha MacBryde RIP site and the three others which Sean Duffy had trolled?  Was the Daily Mail consciously or subconsciously "feeding the trolls" by putting so many articles about teenage deaths into the national newspapers? in order to further their campaign for more internet censorship?  Okay here's the thing...



In their original article on Georgia Varley the Daily Mail doesnt just inform people about her death. They actually plug her RIP page its self (above is the screengrab from the original article). Was this not bound to lead to Ms Varley's RIP page being trolled given they were already engaged in an anti-trolling campaign?

16 Feb 2011 - Daily Mail runs article about Natasha MacBryde's suicide - in this article her parents divorce and trolling are blamed for her death ...as time goes on less and less emphasis will be put on her parents divorce and more and more on the fact she is bullied.  Fair enough I suppose but is this objective

26 Feb 2011 - Daily Mail runs article about Natasha MacBryde's RIP Facebook page being trolled

22 July 2011 - Daily Mail runs article about Natasha MacBryde's RIP Facebook page being trolled

14 September 2011 - Daily Mail runs article about Sean Duffy being jalled for Natasha MacBryde trolling

24 October 2011 - Daily Mail runs article about Georgia Varley's accident including above tribute site plug

26 October 2011 - Daily Mail runs article about Georgia Varley's RIP Facebook page being trolled

Okay it is fair enough to say that mentioning the Natasha MacBryde RIP Facebook page in the 16th of Feb the Daily Mail would not perhaps have expected that this might result in it being targeted by trolls but its it really plausible that when putting a direct screengrab of Georgia Varley's RIP Facebook page up on the 24th of Oct they did not suspect that it might suffer the same fate?  Of course you could say why shouldn't they plug an RIP page?  But then I could ask why shouldn't I be able to leave my car unattended with the keys in the ignition.  Even with the best will in the world putting a direct screengrab of Georgia Varley's Facebook RIP page in a national newspaper does seem (with hindsight) a bit silly?

Also if the Daily Mail is running a political campaign to blame suicides on Facebook and social media (which to be fair they may be to blame for) in order to bring in more internet censorship is it right that RIP pages that are flooded with sentimental messages from people unquestioning of their agenda should be immune from satire? 

Even if they're right it's surely not healthy for any opinion to go unquestioned and ...well, you cant slag off the Daily Mail on its own comments page.  Personally I'm not even allowed to post on the Daily Mail comments sections - I'm not sure why but I believe that they have Martin Lewis syndrome - they believe that anything I say under my own name is a form of promotion for myself and the club.  Or maybe they just censor anyone who criticises them?

To be fair...
Sean Duffy had actually trolled 4 dead teenagers tribute sites and may well have trolled them all anyway...
...as explained in the Channel 4 video... 



...so ... you cant say what Sean Duffy said online.

(this video also features Dr Emma Short telling us simultaneously that trolls
are antisocial but form a community without spotting any oxymorons - see below - as well
as criticism of Facebook)
by the way if you cant view it click here and or
use another browser that isn't 64-bit Windows Explorer



...and all this could be a fluke or a mad conspiracy theory I'm concocting but  ...A cynical person might cogitate about the fact that perhaps plugging Ms Varley's death was designed to encourage trolls flock to Ms Varley's RIP page?  What other function does the original article about her falling under a train have...? It's hardly national news?  Or is it?  Who defines news?
Also you can generate quite a lot of traffic by Facebook referral.  If a lot of people visit these RIP pages and they contain links to the Daily Mail that will cross promote their site?  Think I'm being cynical?  Well, one page on this site cross promoted cleverly on Facebook generated over 500 hits in a day.  Is there an element of the commercialisation of grief here?  Anyway... perhaps that's a little fanciful but... the Daily Mail its self points out Ms Varley's death follows on from the Natasha MacBryde case and points out similarities.  Natasha MacBryde also died underneath a train. 

Natasha MacBryde's death was suicide not an accident.  And the parents blamed the suicide specifically on social media.  They said in a statement: “The family believes that the anonymous postings on the ‘Formspring’ social networking website were a significant contributor to the events on Sunday, February 13, and we seek to understand the motivation of those who choose to send spiteful and vindictive messages to their peers." 


Natasha MacBryde's mother also said that she came home from school crying : “She said she hated school, she hated her teachers and didn’t have any friends and hated her friends.”  So clearly the problem was not just social media platforms.  Social media platforms were just a tool to expedite the bullying with.  Okay perhaps that's like saying guns dont kill people ...people kill people ...but it doesn't follow automatically that if a tool is used to commit a crime it automatically becomes sensible to completely outlaw the use of that tool?

Another similarity between Nastasha MacBryde and Georgia Varley's stories is that they are both white female girls who were just old enough to use Facebook.  At the moment one must be 13 before setting up a Facebook account - is that too young?  And who should bare responsibility for monitering Facebook, the parents or Facebook?  There are political angles to these stories but how do you deicde what is political criticism and what is just mindless bullying.  It may be a clear-ish line in this case but what about in, for example, the Horatio Chapple case?  Indeed, is there much of a difference between politics and mindless bullying?

Erm ... okay maybe that's a conspiracy theory too far but... there is other legislation Sean Duffy could have been convicted under which is not platform specific ...for example....
?

Protection from Harassment Act 1997: This Act is relevant for incidents that have happened repeatedly (i.e. on more that two occasions). Section 1 prohibits behaviour amounting to harassment of another. Section 2 provides a criminal offence and section 3 provides a civil remedy for breach of the prohibition on harassment in section 1. Section 4 provides a more serious offence of someone causing another person to fear, on at least two occasions, that violence will be used against them5. A civil court may grant an injunction to restrain a person from conduct which amounts to harassment and, following conviction of an offence under section 2 or 4, restraining orders are available to protect the victim of the offence.

or the

Malicious Communications Act 1988: Section 1 makes it an offence to send an indecent, grossly offensive or threatening letter, electronic communication or other article to another person with the intention that it should cause them distress or anxiety.


So why do we need internet specific legislation?  Why is there a divide between the way the internet and the printed media is managed?

I have to admit I find it curious that, even though a death might be sudden and that of a young person, so many people have this strange desire as soon as a loved one dies to go into promotion? 
I suppose it may have something to do with the fact that no one has a physical grave any more because everyone is cremated - thus being sarcastic on a tribute page is almost psychologically akin to grave desecration?  But then again just because your relative has died would you take out a poster with your phone number on and ask people you didn't know to ring up and make you feel better?  While not excusing the bullying behaviour of the trolls it does seem to me that there may be some element of putting temptation in people's way here - although one could excuse this as innocence ...I suppose... ?

Socially ...marriage and death are, of course, the two promotional events most "ordinary" people outside entertainment do... who was it said marriage is a funeral as which one can smell one's own flowers...  ?




The ultimate in grief tourism? - Princess Diana's flowers

Anyway, a tribute site... that is promoting?  Maybe it just doesnt occur to these people who've suddenly gone into promotion to try and deal with their and other people's grief that this might enter them into a world that comedians and promoters have to put up with all the time... being unfairly slagged off, being randomly insulted and dealing with mentalists ...?  Indeed one might put forward the hypothesis that this is actually just the result of the brave new world where every idiot can go into promotion...?  In the old days when everything had to be done by telephone, leaflet and footwork promotion was much more difficult. 

Of course when some comedians physically die they often go on to have much better careers than they did when they were alive?



From a promoter / agent's point of view the dead make excellent clients.  The dont moan about money, they dont moan that you should be getting them better gigs and they let you keep not just 15% but 100% of what you make out of them.  Indeed watching the success John Fleming has made out of promoting the Malcolm Hardee Awards and tribute gigs I've sometimes considered that I'm simply wasting my time promoting the living and should broaden my operation in order to take on more corpses. 

I sent my Soul through the Invisible,
Some letter of that After-life to spell:
And by and by my Soul return'd to me,
And answer'd "I Myself am Heav'n and Hell :"

When Mr Hardee had one or two or three or four tribute gigs that was just about understandable ... but sometimes one does feel Mr Hardee has now done more gigs since he died than he did when he was alive.  To be fair Mr Fleming did know Mr Hardee very well having ghost written his autobiography and  the money from the Hardee tribute gigs did go to his family but I still feel slightly cynical about this whole operation ... particularly when Mr Fleming stars writing about how great Bernard Manning was when he was alive?



Bernard of course was famous for his various attempts to be as racist as possible while taunting the establishment that they couldn't prosecute him for incitement to racial hatred without making him a far right martyr.  With an act pre-dating the 1976 race relations act and the Public Order Act 1986  that made incitement to racial hatred an arrestable offence Bernard buried racist jokes in what could otherwise be innocuous sets and built himself a jolly little far right following when his TV career went into decline.  One of Bernard's favourite jokes being. 
Bernard
Manning: “I see we’ve got a black fella in tonight. Where are you from, son?”

Keith Palmer: “London.”
Bernard Manning: “Where are you from before that? I think he thinks he’s English. Just because a donkey’s born in a stable, it doesn’t make it a horse.” Etc etc
This is a lift from a transcript by Arnold Brown.  It is often attributed to Bernard but actually it is a steal from Arthur Wellesley 8th Duke of Wellington. I’m not saying Arthur was right wing in case his relatives try to convict me for RIP trolling under the 2003 Communications Act but I’m sure in his heart that he really wanted the Great Reform Act of 1932 passed and that the protests, refusal to pay taxes, run on the banks, and £1½ million in gold that was withdrawn from the Bank of England were in no way his responsibility. I’m also sure he wouldn’t have minded Bernard borrowing his jokes cus of the way he told ‘em.



A well worn fiction that Bernard Manning was just an anarchist who’d turn on anything was perpetrated by the promoters who while despising Bernard personally knew that his particular brand of spite sold a lot of tickets to his race hate followers.
Bernard’s signature “joke” and pops up repetitively -including  in the infamous transcript of the World in Action Documentary "Black and Blue". Devotees of racist bullying will remember how in 1995, a group of police officers arranged a comedy night fund raiser with Bernard Manning – an event that was taped by secretly a television crew for World In Action.  Of course as TV producers wouldn't touch him and the only way to see his act was live Bernard's publicity machine could keep purporting the fiction that if you hadn't seen him how could you know he was racist?  A brilliant conceit that meant that no matter how many people returned from the Embassy Club to tell one how wonderfully racist Bernard was and no matter how many people knew that Bernard’s act was racist if you wanted to see his act was racist you had to give him money - you didn't, of course, the nature of his act was well documented.  I will not satirise how after his death the Daily Mail ran a sentimental article by his son denying in teeth of all the evidence that Bernard was racist even though he clearly said he was on national television more than once. That would be RIP trolling.


The legislation against incitement to racial hatred was widened in 2005 to include incitement to religious hatred (this allowed the blasphemy laws which previously only protected the Church of England to be abolished) and was aimed at trying to resolve the problem that if you cant openly bash people's race you can transmute that hate onto their religion (and call yourself the EDL).  There was a campaign against this widening of the legislation but it was unfortunately unsuccessful...



... hardly a surprise - it was run by Mr Bean.

There was a further attempt at widening of anti-hate legislation in 2009 when an attempt was made to bolt on homophobia to the category of hate crimes but this was aborted when religious lobby groups pointed out that it would probably make a lot of Vatican documents about intrinsic moral evil illegal.

My plans to further branch out into the promotion of the dead went downhill a bit recently when Harry Deansway beat me to putting on a Ray Presto memorial gig.  So just for the record the sole purpose of every Pear Shaped comedy night from now on is purely the memorial of the memory of Ray Presto...



...I suspect John Fleming is setting up the Ray Presto Awards as I type.  Of course another great thing about the dead is that your can't libel them.  That's good because otherwise the BBC wouldn't be able to keep pumping out factually inaccurate biographies of dead comedians.  Or can you libel the dead?  Joseph Stalin's grandson seems to give it a good go in any jurisdiction he can find that will let him.



Of course Ms Varley's RIP page probably wouldn't have that many hits... unless it hadn't been plugged in the Daily Mail in the first place...?  Perhaps their promotion of it might have generated an unusual volume of interest ...and one has to wonder why this is news...? apart from the fact that Associated Newspapers own lots of local papers too and were looking for something to fill their national paper with?


With upwards of 4000 suicides (let alone all premature deaths) in the UK every year (that's 11 for every day) how do Associated Newspapers decide which of them are worthy of promotion from their network of local papers into the column inches of their national paper?


One could also argue that it shouldn't matter ...and indeed I would ...but responsibility in journalism seems to be in fashion at the moment for some reason. 
Not that that makes making jokes about such things okay.   But... if there is to be legislation, perhaps our potentates can consider how long it should be before any particular kind of tragedy can be added to time to make comedy? 

One might be able to defend sick jokes about the recently dead in a comedy club setting on the grounds that the statistical likelihood of the victim's relatives being in is rather slim, that people are warned before they come about the nature of the material and that the under 18s can be excluded (not true of Facebook where the lower age limit is 13).  However, online anyone can read what anyone says about them - in fact the whole world can.  And it is that that moves such comments from the grey area of commentary into the grey area of harassment...?


On the whole most professional comics aren't out to "troll" dead people and, well, there's not much comedy to be mined from most of these stories but strange situations do sometimes happen by pure fluke... I remember once Viz had a front page depicting Princess Diana as Frankenstine's monster.  It had been on the newsagent's shelf less than a week before Diana actually died resulting in the impression that the magazine had been designed specifically to mock her dead corpse.  Nothing could be further from the truth but it didn't stop them recieving a sackfull of death threats.  Or to give another example Alexei Sayle describes on this blog post how an innocent surreal sketch about a man who was decapitated in a freak accident having his head replaced by an NHS chess piece had to be pulled the day before transmission when a freak decapitation happened in real life and received massive press coverage.  Are we now going to have to prove when we talk about deaths that they're not based on the deaths of anyone real?




So anyway Sean Duffy (a slightly sad individual with asperger's syndrome who was the son of a "BBC comedy writer who worked with Terry Wogan
?") become the first person in the UK to be convicted under the The Communications Act 2003 - Improper use of public electronic communications network (sections 1 and 2) which states that...

127 Improper use of public electronic communications network
This section has no associated Explanatory Notes

(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—

(a)sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character; or

(b)causes any such message or matter to be so sent.

(2)A person is guilty of an offence if, for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another, he—

(a)sends by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that he knows to be false,

(b)causes such a message to be sent; or

(c)persistently makes use of a public electronic communications network.

(3)A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

(4)Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply to anything done in the course of providing a programme service (within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 1990 (c. 42)).

A case can be made that one can say potentially offensive things online IF the primary purpose of the writing is NOT to cause annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety.  So one can make an argument that offensive material is still allowed online so long as the offensiveness is a secondary byproduct of a meaningful discourse - who is to arbitrate meaningful? is another matter but clearly Sean Duffy's random attacks on bereaved parents were probably not particularly "meaningful" ... at least in the eyes of the law. 

More importantly however, gentle readers will note that TV and Radio broadcasters are completely exempted from this legislation - being regulated by Offcom and the Press Complaints Commission ... both rather toothless ombudsmans with the maximum penalties of a naughty fine and a slap on the wrist for a public broadcaster.

This explains why Jan Moir can amass 30,000 complaints for her factually incorrect article on Stephen Gately



but it isn't a criminal act it's a regulatory matter because it is on paper.  Although one could argue that the online article is still subject to
The Communications Act 2003 while the paper version was totally legal.  One can immediately see now that the print media has a vested political interest in promoting more political censorship online.  After all if anyone can now say ill-informed bigoted things that can be read by anyone ...what's the point in the Jan Moir and her ilk?



It seems to me according to an analysis I worked out on the back of a fag packet that when the government legislated they decided that online communication is to be treated like a group telephone conversation whereas those of us who mouth off in the papers or on stage are clearly not engaged in the same kind of activity and/or are allowed a bit more dramatic licence...?

One conceptual problem that I could indentify was that in the past there used to be a divide between content and advertising.  This is no longer so clear.  For example, is this page content (i.e. my opinions) or is it advertising (i.e. an advertisement designed to sell tickets and generate web traffic)?  What's the difference you may ask?  Well, according to the Advertising Standards Agency a lot.  According to the ASA advertisements are supposed to be impartial.  This is because of the laws designed to limit the volume of advertisement space political parties can buy to stop ordinary people being priced out of democracy as they are in the USA ...being unable to afford to stand for government etc.  And also to protect consumers.  Further advertisements since they are in public spaces where they cannot be avoided are meant to adhere to standards of taste not required of the content of the material they're advertising.



As usual the political class have completely exempted themselves from advertising rules on taste and accuracy on the grounds that their particular brand of hatred is necessary for "free speech".



But this exemption does not extend to all lobby groups.  Confused?  Well, the point is that the legislation did used to sort of work when adversting was simply posters and TV and radio adverts.  And then the internet came along and pages like this could be created which are unsure whether they are advertising or content because they fall vaguely into the catergory of freebie/both?  Alan Davies free podcast is content ... but does being free also make it advertising and therefore subject to ASA rules?  Who knows?  I dont.



The opacity of these rules has resulted in the Festival Fringe Society worrying themselves to death over exactly what is and is not allowed in the grown up world of being professionally childish.  The Malcolm Hardee awards (see above) even contain a special award for most "cunning publicity stunt".  Last year won by the man who put stickers of penises on other people's posters.  Many posters at the Fringe, of course, would simply never make it onto the high street as Reginald D Hunter found out.


So why do we need internet specific legislation?  Why is there a divide between the way the internet and the printed media is managed?

Intellectually all this might be more defensible if everyone had a moratorium on hateful comments immediately after they died but in the time honoured traditions of believing that victimhood always makes everything someone says logical I happened across this on the front page of the metro the other night.



In other words if you're a victim and you hate the right person that's okay.  Again the paper version of this story was not illegal under the Communications Act 2003 but my photographic reproduction of it may be.  Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing and who has been a spokesman for UK Families Flight 103, which represented British relatives, has said that he believes Megrahi is innocent but Susan Cohen clearly thinks he is guilty and hates him in language Sean Duffy might use.  Okay, this is an extreme situation but does that mean Susan isnt engaged in hate crime?  Practically everything seems to be a hate crime these days.  And I see a lot of hate about the media.  So clearly the problem isn't that we hate but who we hate.  Twitter with its retweeting positive feedback loops is particularly good at whipping up disproportionate storms of vicious hate against people who often have done little more than be a trifle tactless or silly.  Or as Winston Smith would say...

The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.

Probably just quoting that is a breach of the Communications Act 2003... it's at this point that the defenders of censorship will say that they dont care as long as they receive justice.  And ...erm ...maybe they've got a point. 

As I tried to find out more about the problem I was alarmed to learn how many more people suffer anonymous abuse on line

"I'm finding this really hard" little Mix singer Jesy left in tears on X factor over hurtful internet comments about her.

A story of national importance about how when little Mix singer Jessy turned to the camera on X factor and said she'd been bullied online her Facebook page generated over 7,000 likes and more than 300 comments.  But, of course, that's not why anyone says they've been bullied ...to generate web traffic.  That is just a byproduct.

According to a new survey over a quarter of under 17 year olds have experienced cyber bullying.

Cut back to Georgia Varley

Most disturbing of all are the reports of grieving families being targeted by trolls.



We now cut to another Daily Mail article entitled - Natasha Giggs living in fear at bombarded with death threats "killer tweeter"

Police contacted the star after the stalker, who brands himself 'Twitter's first killer', bombarded her with shocking messages threatening to mutilate and kill the CBB contender because of her affair with brother-in-law Ryan Giggs.



Of course the ire felt by people towards Ms Giggs might just have something to do with the 2011 privacy injunction case.  That said one might agree with Mr Bacon and the Daily Mail that harassing celebrities on twitter while simultaneously calling yourself a "killer" might be taking things a bit far...?  However, it has to be noted too that Giggs did consider using legal action against "individual twitter users".  We are still technically only allowed to refer to him as CTB.   Not that that makes any if this moral. 

However, to be fair to the Daily Mail ...if you really want to see hate and explicit threats

Cut to - Georgia Varley article by Paul Byrne and Laurie Hama in the Mirror (we've done that one above...)

There's been such an epidemic of this over the last few months.  Kylie for example called the police after she got a load of abuse on twitter ....




"In 2003 she received more than 700 threatening letters in one year to addresses near her home in Chelsea, and to the office of her British record company, EMI in Hammersmith, both in west London. The letters, which all bore a West Country postmark, started as ordinary fan mail but become increasingly aggressive. In one the writer, who was never identified, threatened to kill the Aussie star and perform depraved sex acts on her."
AND
"The singer's management later said the letters "were of an annoying nature" rather than being dangerous. "There have been no death threats but letters of an annoying nature have been reported to the police and are being investigated," her spokesman said at the time. The situation has simply been blown out of proportion. I spoke to her this morning ... she is her usual self, absolutely fine and happy as ever." No arrests were ever made."

Humm... either Kylie is playing this down or her PR team are playing it up.

...and more seriously there are lots of kids now who are bullied online awfully.  And you get grieving families who set up tribute sites on Facebook to a relative of theirs who has died and often those sites will be flooded with the most vile and disgusting abuse... 


Flitting across the screen next is a TROLLS TARGET SOCCER VICTIMS headline.

This is a particularly interesting and surreal story of how someone "infiltrated" the Hillsborough survivor's website.  Rather than flaming the posters or posting inflammatory comments this particular "troll" expressed great sympathy for the victims of the disaster.  They even got into an online relationship with one of the Hillsborough victims and under various identities claimed variously to be going to donate 290,000 euros and then that one of them was "going to a football match again for the first time"... However, whenever it came near to anyone actually meeting one of these individuals in person that "person" would mysteriously have been found to have contracted a fatal illness and die...?  While extremely childish behaviour ...it surely isn't a crime just to pretend to be someone else?  And if lying in relationships is going to become a criminal offense I think Jeremy Kyle may be made redundant ... Although the use of a financial hook might take this into the category of fraud. 

By the way dont worry we wont be satirising any Hillsborough victims.  I have no intention of ending up as vilified as ear eating comedian Alan Davies ...



I want to live.  Unfortunately we cannot support their sensible, tactful and long standing campaign for Kevlin MacKenzie and David Duckenfield to be brought to justice and the sham of an inquest to be re-opened as that would probably breach the 2003 Communications Act as being classed as some kind of harassment.  The Cabinet papers have never been released.  However, even though the Liverpool fans have a laudable political aim to their commemorations it has to be said that all large public commemorations of death are political.  And it is possible to use the emotion surrounding a mass loss of life to conceal a political truth.  For example...



...when the Monument to the Great Fire of London was erected 1671-1677 it seemed a rather nice and thoughtful commemoration of the great disaster with no particular political significance.  However, by 1681 a political scapegoat had already been found and the words "but Popish frenzy, which wrought such horrors, is not yet quenched" had been added to the end of the inscription.  The words were chiselled out in 1830 when Catholic Emancipation came along...



Fires and man made disasters
are always good for a scapegoat
and a witch hunt or two
and even the odd war.

A more modern and controversial example of a dubious political message being cloaked in grief might be the links between Israeli politics and the "Holocaust memorial industry" suggested in Norman G. Finkelstein's "The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering".  I'm not an expert on this topic but I believe his main bones of contention are two known frauds, that of "The Painted Bird" by Polish writer Jerzy Kosinski and "Fragments" by Binjamin Wilkomirski, and how they were defended by people even after they'd been exposed.  I mean, I do understand that Holocaust was a terrible thing but perhaps things have gone a bit far when you cant buy this on ebay any more...



I will leave our gentle readers to cogitate on the fact that the title sequence that was altered in the 20th century to included swastika flags because footage of real soldiers fighting was considered too controversial is in the 21st century arguably even more controversial than using real archive footage from the war would've been.

Of course Adolf Hitler himself played the I've-suffered-in-the-first-world-war-so-what-I-say-must-be-logical card in Mein Kampf as early as 1923 - the book is even called "my struggle".

Grieving relatives can be particularly prone to the promotion of dubious fictions that sound plausible but are palpably (gentleman's most private parts) to pursue their own political ends.  The most well known example being that of the Deaths of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed in circumstances that are to this day still unexplained beyond "unlawful killing by person or persons unknown".  At the time of the funeral Earl Spencer gave a very moving oration about how the press and the media had hunted her to death which turned into a political campaign for more privacy laws...



... unfortunately it turned out that the press did not seem to be to blame and that Earl Spenser's words contain not one iota of actual evidence or truth.  Meanwhile Mr Al Fayed would have us believe that it was an MI5/6 conspiracy... and the Royal Family would have us ask as few questions as possible and got the BFFC to refuse a certificate to Victor Lewis-Smith, Paul Sparks and Keith Allen's documentary on the grounds that if it isn't censored in the UK Prince Phillip might have to sue for libel which is something that is beneath the Royal Family.  What actually happened to the infamous white Fiat Uno we will never know...?  But all these parties seem to be pursuing their own political campaigns and agendas with great vigor and little common sense.

I wont even touch on the McCann case and the effect of media saturation coverage on the investigations of crimes themselves ...suffice to say that not since the Lindbergh kidnapping case has so much money been raised and spent to so little avail in actually solving a child abduction case.  Actually that's not really fair as the Lindbergh case was actually solved.  Well, sort of ... although Mr Hauptmann who went to the electric chair for it almost certainly did it and certainly was a blackmailer in receipt of the blackmail money ...it is impossible to prove him the sole author of the ransom notes since such was the interest in the case whipped up by John Condon and they Daily News's unofficial investigations that souvenir ransom notes were soon available all over New York for $5 each.

There is a reason fiction is littered with characters who think that because they have suffered all their ideas have become sensible....



After a bit of trouble in her personal life
Miss Havisham decided that since a man had made her suffer
it was logical that all men should suffer.


All memorials whether good or bad have a political dimension - therefore should they be immune from political satire?  My personal bugbear is the reintroduction of Armistice Day.  Younger readers may not recall how in 1939, the two-minute silence was moved to the Sunday nearest to 11 November in order not to interfere with wartime production should 11 November fall on a weekday. It stayed there for over 50 years.. Then when we started fighting wars again the Royal British Legion wanted Armistice Day back again meaning that instead of 2 minutes silence we now have 4.  I think very soon the RBL will be trying for 6, then 8 then 10... it's too much.  A sinister political objective of promoting war?  Anyway ... I'm wandering off the point.

 The tribalistic world of football...



...also supplied one of the most famous cases of a conviction commonly believed to be under the 2003 Communications Act...  but which was not actually ... that of Liam Stacy.... who tweeted that Fabrice Muamba had fallen over apparently dead in slightly tactless terms before getting embroiled in an online racist row.  This link contains a thread which analyses the legislation under which Liam was convicted and comes to the conclusion that the law makes

"many online opinions illegal". 

Thanks to whoever recorded Liam's thread to youtube we can build up a slightly more detailed picture of what exactly happened during this incident - but as usual (via the wonder of twitter) only one decontextualised side of the conversation is shown.  And since Liam's account has since been deleted we cannot tell to what extent he himself was provoked or not.. 

As far as I can understand Mr Stacey's downfall was not that he typed something tasteless but that he was retweeted by a football player to his 200,000 odd followers (the original tweet was sent only to Mr Stacey's own approximately 500 followers).  That said it would have shown up in a name search for anyone searching more info on what had happened to the injured player - which would have been likely to happen to anyone "live tweeting" the match.  Live tweeting is a big thing - indeed, I've even seen people live tweet Question Time.  When confronted by a hail of angry replies Mr Stacey responded by attacking his detractors with racial slurs.  This pushed his crime from a potential public order offense to a racially aggravated public order offense.  By using racist language in his reply Mr Stacey had shown his mind to be guilty.  Mind you that's probably because it was.




In this tweet on the police investigation Mr Collymore refers to an incident a few months earlier when racist tweeter Joshua Cryer was convicted under section 127 but "got off" with 2 years community service ...

Veronica Jordan, prosecuting, argued Cryer
had not just "acted stupidly on the spur of the moment" like Mr Stacey ...and that his behaviour was " not impulsive. He has done this up to seven times over a period of days. That does not smack of impulsive behaviour. He was intending to insult and abuse." 

Never-the-less, the Judge concluded this behaviour was not particularly racist (see below)?!


Here the plot thickens. 

In the Mirror Collymore states that "I must get 150-200 abusive messages a day".  Of course this might be because Collymore is an anti-racism campaigner on Talksport.   Amongst other things Collymore points out that it is racism that is the cause of people still not forgiving him for hitting his bird "There is no doubt that, had Collymore's victim been an anonymous drudge behind closed doors, or one judged by the tabloids to be less sympathetic or middle-class - Sheryl Gascoigne, say, whose volubility on the subject of her own battery has been irritably reported - he would have been treated more leniently".   Erm ...

Collymore (who thinks the public should forgive him now for his self confessed youthful mistake of assaulting Ulrika Jonsson) frequently states that people who point out that locking up morons like Liam Stacy for one mistake rather than a sustained pattern of behaviour is not sensible (or postulate that they should be shown compassion if they show remorse as it simply isn't feasible to lock up absolutely everyone who is retarded) are wet liberals who "dont know what it's like".
 

Fair point - I'm not really entitled to an opinion on black issues ... my job is simply to carry a Sainsburys shopping bag round Poundland.  And to be fair he does raise an interesting theory that people feel free to use racist language on twitter that has long been banned from the football terraces... And this article sheds some light on the scale of the problem.

As to Liam Stacey ... Victoria Coren over at the Guardian did go through the tortuous process of trying to glue Liam Stacey’s and his victims' and tormentors' timelines back together (I have to admit that even I gave up due to boredom) and points out that Liam didn't tweet any particular person more than once.  Although it is, of course, possible he and others deleted tweets.

However the fact remains that Liam Stacey was sent to jail (according to a High Court judge) for 8 messages (so a maximum of 1,120 characters) or approx 186 words (okay 50% of them were racial slurs) within a 2 hour period.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-17562016
Not just the footballer’s family, not just the footballing world, but the whole world were literally praying for Muamba’s life. Your comments aggravated this situation said District Judge John Charles displaying the objectivity of Judge Jeffreys at the end of a long day down the Bloody Assizes

While at the appeal…"You received responses which were extremely critical but you did not desist - instead you posted eight messages which were extremely abusive and insulting."said Mr Justice Wyn Williams displaying all the open mindedness of Judge Roger Bullingham towards a defending barrister.

Contrast this with Joshua Cryer who was not jailed for tweeting one person (Stan Collymore) specifically clearly unprovoked racist abuse seven times over a period of DAYS and “got off” with community service and it doesn't seem quite proportionate.  Does it matter if the law is proportionate as long as racist RIP trolling scum end up in jail I hear you cry?  Fair enough, what does confidence in the justice system matter in the grand scheme of things?

Of course if Liam had had a better brief he might not have pleaded guilty in the first place.
  Liam was convicted under section 4A of the Public Order Act 1986 - Not section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.   A good lawyer might  have told him that a breach of the Communications Act 2003 is a much lesser offence? than Incitement to Racial hatred under the Public Order Act 1986 which can land you in prison not just for days but for years ...and would have known from the charge sheet that the establishment were seeking a custodial sentence...?

It has to be said that if he’d just hit Collymore (Common Assault up to ABH) he’d probably have got off with a fine for a first offence or a slap on the wrist… (pun intended) which says a lot about changing attitudes to verbal and physical violence.  Only GBH and assaults on the police carry automatic custodial sentences...?  Sticks and stones may break my bones but you wont automatically go to prison for it under Lord Justice Leveson’s new sentencing guidelines...?



Yes, that Lord Justice Leveson


Disgusting and tasteless as Liam’s comments were personally I do not think they actually constitute incitement to Racial Hatred.  In my view to cross the line into incitement you must be not just hating yourself but clearly actively soliciting others to hate.  The difference between harassment and incitement may be subtle but it is also important.  Then again this is probably why, like Horace “Never Plead Guilty” Rumpole, I’m never going to be a judge.  I mean call me wet but I do think that there is a difference between Liam’s ill advised comments and say those of Trevor Hannington and Michael Heaton …though who knows … maybe Liam has Nazi flags on his walls at home too…?

Still, how is the country supposed to save public money by encouraging the guilty to throw themselves on the mercy of the courts when the quality of mercy is not strained but droppeth like a brick from the Post Office tower.

The answer to why Joshua Cryer was not sent to prison is that as a posh law student with a decent brief he probably knew how to play the system better.  The Newcastle student was charged on January 7 with two public order offences, after the complaint was passed on to Northumbria Police.   However, on January 23, one of the charges was withdrawn.  Presumably he was changed under Public Order Act 1986 and the Communications Act 2003 then but managed to get the more serious one dropped.  After wasting money clogging up the legal system by pleading not guilty he then plead guilty at the hearing proper when he realised he couldn’t get off …but unlike Stacey gets a lenient sentence … how does that work?

District Judge Stephen Earl with a trusting naivety reminiciant of the late Mr Justice Cantley remarked

"I don't doubt you are not an inherently racist person, but you did act in an intentionally racist way. You intended to get a rise out of Mr Collymore. He has made a justifiable and reasoned stance against you to the point where you shut down your Twitter account.  I find it difficult to fathom what on Earth you thought you were doing. It was stupid, and you ought to have known better. You were a legend in your own head in this attention-seeking moment."

Is it because e is upper-middle-class?



One common noticeable thing about the conviction of most of these "twitter trolls" is that they tend to all be young white men, usually in their 20s, who are not yet in full time employment.  And, of course, virtually no one in entertainment or the media is ever convicted.  Can this really be because they're all too left wing and wise and grown up to engage in a bit of trolling?  Or do we all just use more devious methods to advance our agendas because we know how the game works? 

For proof that this is not just about racist abuse but the farcically different treatment meted out
to people based on their social status in society we need look no further than the pitch its self. 



Liverpool’s Luis "I don't speak to blacks" Suarez has a long history of racist abuse towards other players
but I don’t see him being charged under the Public Order Act 1986 for incitement– just a slap on the wrist from the FA.  He cannot be charged under the section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 because the communication  is not electric.  Still Anfield stadium only has a seating capacity of 45276 for him to use racial slurs in front of.  There might be a few viewers at home but, of course, broadcast media is completely exempt.  Somehow the PFA banning players isn’t quite the same as porridge. 

 Of course for years lots of people were frustrated that the government never seemed to convict anyone for incitement to racial hatred because when the BNP and the EDL had to pay paper printing costs for pamphlets that had no circulation it was easier to sweep such problems under the carpet and harder for them to do harm. 
So maybe this is a case of careful what you wish for...?

Then again as Wendy Williams, head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the north-east, notes: "In recent months we have seen a number of similar cases in the north-east, in which people have been racially abused through social networking sites."

"Ironically, the strongest evidence in each of these cases has been directly provided by the defendants themselves. When a person makes such comments digitally, they effectively hand police and prosecutors much of the evidence needed to build a robust case against them."

Or as a more cynical person might put it -

Convicting people for Inchoate offences in the virtual world is disturbingly easier than solving past crimes in the physical world that were not anticipated.

Following the 2011 riots the police were very fast to bang up people who had been using social media platforms to incite violence (it's easier than catching those who boss criminal gangs?).  Though interestingly not all of these were under the Communications Act.  The Infamous "Facebook Two" were actually convicted under sections 44 and 46 of the Serious Crime Act.  This contains the Inchoate offences of

44. Intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence.
46. Encouraging or assisting offences believing one or more will be committed.

Greater Manchester police are famous for being in favour of policies designed to prevent crimes before they happened.  Some of which are highly controversial such as sending ex-cons "funny Christmas cards".  But, of course, this is all done in a spirit of jolliness.  Our friendly policemen who do the rounds of ex-Cons at Christmas are merely engaged in sending seasonal felicitations.  These people may have "paid their debt to society" but a little harassment and jocularity wont hurt them - it certainly isnt hate mail.




Whether GMP's policy of impersonating Detective Inspector Chisolm works or not your guess is as good as mine...


.....and I want to know why there's been such an explosion of this kind of stuff.  What sort of kick the people who do the bullying get out of it and what can be done about it?

To find out why Britain's haters have gone into overdrive I want to hunt them down and ask them face to face.  As well as trying to track down my own troll I want to find out what drives the authors of the most abusive messages to attack vulnerable people that they've never even met. 

These so called RIP trolls post sick jokes, defaced pictures and videos on internet memorial pages commemorating the dead....




On the subject of RIP trolling is this the same Richard Bacon who when promoting his "Beer and Pizza" show once appeared in an article entitled "why I was sniggering at the Queen Mother's funeral?"

The DJ explained that a friend had made him burst into laughter at the exact moment that the funeral procession passed his house.  He told guests on his Beer & Pizza Club show: "I collapsed laughing and I stood at the side, and I'm laughing and laughing. I was laughing for ages.  I looked up, and there was Prince Charles - right there - going past in the car behind, looking right at me. And you know how you can sometimes turn a laugh into a pretend cry?" Anyway...


Actually while we're on the subject of sick jokes about the recently dead is this the same Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who when Edwina Mountbatten, Countess Mountbatten of Burma died of unknown causes and was buried at sea remarked that "Dear Edwina, she always liked to make a splash" ...still okay when you're royal, isn't it?""

While over at the biased biased BBC website they've still got the hump about Mr Bacon plugging ...



...this Doug Stanhope routine about Sarah Palin's sprogs which it is probably illegal to transcribe under section 127... getting a bit of form, isn't he? But you wont see Greater Manchester Police trying to arrest Doug Stanhope as he has a large publicity machine so he's not easy prey.

There follows a short video of man dancing in guy fawkes mask to music "lol u died"

I'm dancing of your grave LOL (video has 7067 views)

...within days I came across this video posted on a Facebook page set up to pay tribute to a young boy who had just died.  It's hard to imagine how I'd feel  if that was a friend of mine.  I had a friend who died earlier this year and there was a Facebook site set up for him and if I'd seen that on there and knowing that his family would see this too ... I would feel aggressively angry about it.


Tom Mullaney's family know only too well how merciless online hating or RIP trolling in particular can be.  Tom was 15, boisterous, spirited and energetic.  The very life and soul of his family. 

Actually Tom was slightly more than boisterous... according to the coroner's report.

Tom's mum : He was fun loving.  He was always out and about with his friends.  Never kept still for 5 minutes

Film of Tom being pulled behind a boat in a dingy

Tom's Dad : You always had to keep an eye on him because he had no fear of danger.  If he was on his BMS bike you'd hear the screech of tyres coming down the road.  The back gate would go bang.  Upstairs.  On the computer

Tom's Mum : If you were angry at him you couldn't stay angry at him for long.  He just made you smile.

Richard informs us that ...

It took only a dozen threatening messages posted on his Facebook page to pull Tom's world apart. 

This is a lie.  Tom's life had actually been rather eventful that day. 

From the moment of his death Tom's parents, the newspapers and the police were fast to put the blame on "internet bullies".  However, at
Birmingham Coroner’s Court it was revealed that

Tom had been excluded from school on the day he received the internet threats.

Now I'm not saying that means Tom deserved to be bullied on line but it does call into question the version of events presented by Richard Bacon which by omission suggest that this was just another ordinary day in the child's life and also that he was a complete innocent.

Tom’s father Robert told the inquest that, although his son had behavioural issues, he was receiving help and was happy.

Now it could be that Tom was an innocent who had been excluded from school entirely due to a series of misunderstandings when actually he was the victim of long term bullying or it could be that Tom was the guilty party (I dont know but fortunately it is not legally possible to libel the dead).  However, it is clear that vital information has been omitted from the story in order to make it fit Richard Bacon's narrative. 

Denise Cunningham, head of year at Kings Norton Boys, said Tom had been excluded for a day on May 19 for an altercation in a corridor with another pupil.

Paediatrician Dr Anne Aukett, of Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust, said Tom had been diagnosed as on the edge of the autistic spectrum, having poor verbal comprehension and low self-esteem a month earlier.  This doesn't exactly fit with his father's assertion that Tom was "happy" at the time but it is possible he had made a remarkable recovery.

Of course it could be that Tom was being bullied and the bullying had moved from school to online or there was no wall between the two.  Or that Tom had reacted physically to continual verbal communication and thus been excluded.  We will probably never know all the details.

Assistant Deputy Coroner Sarah Elaine Ormonde-Walsh recorded a narrative verdict that Tom died as a result of hanging. She said: “He had threatened to take his own life but whether he was serious is another issue. I often hear of cases where these acts are carried out as a cry for help.”

His parents had been out for the evening but returned to find the house empty.

Tom's Mum : Went upstairs.  The bedroom light was on.  The computer was still on.  The television was still on.  And the chair was pushed away from the computer as if he'd just pushed it away in one of his moods.

Tom's Mum and Dad in unison : And the screen was still on.

When Tom's dad looked at the screen he saw it was open on his Facebook page.

********* tom fight me tomorrow (posted 17:35)

6 or 7 kids had posted threatening messages on there

******* i will bang you first lesson, second less , lunch time and last lesson (19 May 2010 at 17:35)

about a fight Tom had been involved in that day at school

Shut up (posted 17:37)
ary Booth
Tom's Dad: Suddenly something's gone wrong in Thomas's head and he's got really scared.  In my mind he's got frightened, he's got scared and he doesn't know how to deal with this.

Tom's parents rang their son's mobile repeatedly but there was no answer.  The next morning the 15 year old was still missing and Tracy and Robert were frantic with worry.  Then they heard his mobile ringing at the bottom of the garden

Tom's Dad: I just peeked behind the shed and I saw this figure and I said to Thomas "come on I'm late for work get going" and I walked away and as soon as I looked back at the school I thought there was something wrong.  He wasn't standing on nothing.  And I just looked up and I saw the chord.  I just grabbed his little hand.  I can still see it now and it was cold, it was clammy.  And I knew there was nothing I could've done then.  I walked back and shook and phoned the police

Tom's Mum: I just ran out the house trying to get to Tomas to see him but Rober wouldn't let me go and by which time the police were here.

As if that were not enough for the family to endure within days Tom became victim of RIP trolling.  His brother Ashley had set up a tribute site on Facebook for friends and family to post messages

Tom's brother Ashley muttering something about sharing his feelings on Tom's bed.

His brother Ashley had set up a Facebook tribute site for friends and family to post messages.  At first it was a source of comfort to the Mullaneys but the site was soon desecrated trolls who attacked on mass posting defaced images of Tom and upsetting messages.

Tom's brother Ashley : Pictures of my brother decapitated.  Pictures of my brother hanging himself.  Just horrible stuff.  They took a photo of my brother.  I think it was that one actually and just put a noose round it and just horrible comments as well


Did you write back to them?

Tom's brother Ashley :  I did actually I put a comment saying leave this page alone you've got no right putting all these horrible comments and pictures.  You didn't know my brother...

And what did they say back to that?

Tom's brother Ashley : Took the mickey out of it.  Saying he was a coward for committing suicide.  Cheated death and all that stuff.

Even given this brutal testimony Mr Bacon cant help leading his witness.  Appending a fallacious statement that Ashley "didn't know about internet trolling before this" to the front of his question so that in answering the question Ashley appears to be endorsing the view that this is a new phenomenon that he was previously completely unaware of.

You didn't know about internet trolling before this and your mum and dad didn't know about it.  What kind of impact did it have on them?

Tom's brother Ashley : My mum was just disgusted and angry and my dad was the same.  Was just hard to see them really upset.

Of course it couldn't be that one reason this page has been targeted so severely is because this tribute page might have been suspected of being used as part of a continuing online political campaign in favor of internet censorship?

Okay it's a bit optimistic to think that Tom's critics were that clever or insightful ...they're more likely just really childish bullies but couldn't this possibly be a motivation somewhere - if a mere subconcious one...?

Tom's Mum : I just thought those are our family pictures - why have you done this?  That's my son there that you've just

Tom's Dad: Feel violated.  They've got no right to do that.  No right and the internet should be able to stop them from doing that.

we see an online comment: burning in hell

The nasty comments could be quickly removed.  Taking down the defaced pictures was a laborious and upsetting process. 

What a silly boy
Hang in there Tom

Tom's Dad : I can still see the caption.  I can still see the photograph.  I can still see the words.  It's imprinted on your brain.

Amongst the tolls targeting Tom Mullaney was someone calling themselves Damon Evans.  He posted this crude comment on Tom's Facebook page

Damon Evans : Get well soon Tom, the bum sex was awsome!

he can with me xx

And me

i gave him bum sex, id ...

It kick started a string of offensive jokes about Tom and his family

I've managed to track down a youtube account for a Damon Evans and I think he may be the person responsible for the post. 

It's not hard to find Damon's Youtube account (it has a slightly racist name) though I didn't watch all his videos as one has peado in the title.  If Damon wants his videos to be watched possibly putting peado in the name might be a bad move as I wasn't going to watch it to find out if it was a satire of peados or actual peado material as I dont want to end up the next Chris Langham.  Possibly having a user name which contains a partial racial slur while being whiter than an albino with anemia might narrow his audience demographic too.  Then again maybe The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People aren't his target audience.

I watched a couple which were some kind of prank phone conversations (not exactly Victor Lewis-Smith but it's interesting to see a renaissance in this art form which seems to have died out with the advent of caller ID).  One involved a lot of swearing which is probably "hilarious" if you know those involved.  Another involved ringing up someome he'd pulled online only to tell her not to go out with people you pick up online.  All slightly childish and perhaps misogynistic nonsense but ...well... No doubt Damon probably imagines himself as the Howard Stern of Youtube and Facebook or something.  I feel he has some way to go though as...  Unfortunately at the moment his social satires display all the wit and sophistication of filling a paper bag with shit, leaving it on someone's doorstep and setting it on fire.  Then again bullying and insulting members of the general public while pretending to be a member of an ethnic minority worked for Sacha Baron Cohen who never seems to get convicted.  So maybe he should stick at it...


I've contacted him to see if he'll do an interview so I'll try and begin to understand what would motivate someone to post such vile hurtful comments.  He'll only meet me if I can convince him I am who I say I am.  In an email he sent me he defends trolling.

Damon's reply is half shown ... but here's what I could transcribe.  Later it's read more fully...

That's what grief tourism is really but I dont think *************
way about targeting these people.  A message ************
appropriate than posing abuse on people's RIP pages.

I had my Facebook cloned multiple times last year and people **************
use the accounts to troll these pages.  I actualy got in *******************
trouble for it but manage to sort it out and clear my  **********

I think the media need to look further into **********
labeling it bad because I think some **********

*** things I did were ***********
*** troll because ************
*** who ***

So he says RIP sites are fine when friends and family post on them but what he doesn't like is when people who didn't know the deceased post a nice message.  He says those people are just trying to look nice.  He admits to a form of trolling himself

****** to help with the ******
****** have never even met the *******
***** go on the page and say *****
***** out to him" or something ****
**** I believe that they are just *****
*** think "what a nice person" *****

but says that his facebook site was cloned and someone nicked his identity and did some trolling and it just ...
seems like quite a coincidence that.... he does some trolling and then someone else would nick his identity and do some trolling with his name.

He's asked me to send a message to his twitter account as proof of who I am.  Once convinced he says he'll arrange a meeting.



I think it's fair to say that Damon Evans has made a bit of a name for himself online by the fact he has made it onto http://www.datingpsychos.com/psycho/Damon-Evans/5881 which presents a slightly unfair picture of Damon.  Even going so far as to insinuate he's actually been on a date.


However, this is a BBC3 documentary so we cannot stick to any one subject of train of thought for longer than 3 minutes as this would mean not targeting an audience of 16 to 34 year olds who have no attention span and cannot be trusted not to switch over.  Perhaps if there was a channel specifically for old gits or those undergoing a midlife crisis then Richard might not get so many trolls who believe that the BBC is only interested in young people so ... oh, that's Radio 5Live, isn't it?

"BBC Three's programming consists of comedy, drama, spin-off series and repeated episodes of series from BBC One and Two, and other programmes that attempt to alert others of their actions through a series of programmes challenging common beliefs."

Or as we used to call it, when I was a child, propaganda?


In the meantime I want to know what experts believe motivates Trolls to post on RIP sites.  Is it possible they just dont understand the consequences of their abuse?  Dr Emma Short is one of the country's leading experts on online harassment.



Dr Emma Short is a Chartered Psychologist based at the University of Bedfordshire with a headshot that looks like it was taken for spotlight who tells us on her CV that she's very much in demand on the television and in the media.  She's an expert in cyber stalking and trolling.  In this interesting interview.... Dr Short attempts her definition of what "trolling" actually is.

What is the difference between cyber-bullying and trolling?

Dr Emma Short : Stalking is a word used to describe the obsessive pursuit or intrusion of another person. The intrusion is persistent and frequent. It causes fear and distress person being stalked.

A Troll is widely accepted to be a person who posts with the intention of insulting and provoking others.
The intention is often to disrupt the normal functioning of a discussion group so it collapses.

A group is considered to be cohesively destroyed when two-thirds to three-quarters of the messages are a result of trolls," Wood 2007.

This political explanation of trolls is in my view a fallacious one as it hinges on the assumption that the function of discussion is for people to either like each other, bond with each other or reach a consensus of opinion.  It doesn't consider that there could actually be just no point to some forms of communication.  The implicit assertion is that all communication should fulfill a useful function.  It cant just be - like cows going moo or dogs going woof... to express their needs.  But moreover is destroying a cohesive group always a bad thing?  What if I went and trolled a BNP forum with the political aim of preventing their group cohesively functioning?  Surely that's not such a bad idea.  After all, aren't all cohesive groups lobby groups with an aim of advancing a political agenda...?  And dont some violent disagreements serve a useful social function?  Is it actually sensible to purge all anger and hate from public discourse?

The problem is, to borrow a cliche from Star Trek, that in Dr Short's analysis the needs of the many outweigh the needs or the few.  However, sometimes the needs of the few (or indeed one) may outweigh the needs of the many...?  That said one might question the sanity of people who have the time or energy to communicate with people with whom they violently disagree...  but is that actually wrong?  Clearly Sean Duffy is bonkers but has locking him up actually achieved anything and aren't people with asbergers entitled to communicate too?  Mind you when Volatire said "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" he probably wasn't thinking of Sean Duffy....

Okay then, I'll let John Cleese say it better than I can...




..okay Cleese may not be from the demographic that's likely to suffer racist or RIP trolling but he's got a point - particularly about how pressure groups find it easy to stamp on the lives of those at the bottom of the pile but dont always seem to be able to change what happens at the top ...?  It's easier to put a student in jail or sack a minor civil servant than to bring a TV comedian or a Premiership football player to political heel.

Dr Short seems to imply that insulting people or provoking an extreme emotional reaction in someone else is intrinsically morally wrong or that people who seek to force their unwanted opinions on others are somehow immoral.  When in fact they're just bores and windbags...



...but is it always true that insulting people is immoral?

In recent years the government has gone to some lengths to crack down on what it considers to be insulting behaviour ...not just online but in public.    For example the infamous Public Order Act  1986 section 5 outlaws "insulting words or behaviour." in public. What constitutes "insulting" is unclear and has resulted in many controversial arrests and prosecutions. It's not often you see David Davis and Peter Tatchell come together to state that "Civil liberties campaigns, faith groups and secular organisations have joined forces to have the word "insulting" removed from the legislation on the grounds that it restricts free speech and penalises campaigners, protesters and even preachers." because they miss the sound of their own voices telling people that either they're going to burn in hell or must be homophobic if they dont agree with someone else's every idea or something.



The Reform Section 5 campaign is headlining with the slogan: "Feel free to insult me", and asks the vital question: "Who should decide whether words, posters or ideas are insulting?"

The problem is, of course, that all political criticism is by definition anti-social. 
It can be argued that comedy in particular is a fundamentally anti-social activity.

Dr Emma Short : Many trolls are characterised by having an excess of free time (says who?) and are probably lonely and seeking attention, some extreme antisocial online behaviour may be due to a psychological need to feel good by making others feel bad. Trolling is antisocial behaviour, just as offline antisocial behaviour is. It can be compared to recognised antisocial behaviours such as misuse of public space or nuisance behaviour such as intimidation, harassment and criminal damage. The point is, that trolling tends to be motivated by an antisocial tendency rather than a fixation on one person where is it feared and unwelcomed, that it what defines the stalking relationship.

One could ask the question what is public space for? Or how do you define nuisance behavior?  What exactly does one class as intimidation or harassment?  But lets not... Here we see the government's problem.  While for a long time there's a raft of Public Order Act type acts there was for a very long time, much to the government's chagrin, no Online Order Act.

The problem with anti-social behavior offenses has always been the definition of them.  Broadly described as "legislation against people getting on other people's tits" ... Well, look I'm not completely ideologically opposed to ASBOs and their coalition successors  ... in principle like the far left and right brigades seem to be but if nothing else they do seem to suffer from, at least in logistical terms, being (gentleman's most private parts) .

In recent years  governments have gone to more and effort to regulate public spaces. ...in an attempt to build a brave new world full of Community, Indentity and Stability.  Tony Blair's famous line "tough on crime tough on the causes of crime" wasn't just a call to improve public services - it was an explicit statement of belief in a very paternalistic style of social engineering.  Or if you want a female description of the policy - it was a call to create a "nanny state". 

A new exiting recent over-paternalistic development is the banning of swearing
(though I think I'm still allowed to swear on stage (just) as this is art and I'm "in character")...?  Quite right too - we wouldn't want people swearing in public - this is Britain and it is not British to explictly show a verbally emotional response.  So everywhere over the country parents are enrolling their offspring on passive aggressiveness classes to learn how to be spiteful with longer words.  One is reminded of the Alexei Sayle sketch where a group of gentlemen dressed as Oscar Wilde practice the "ancient art of verbal abuse".  Still everyone feels much safer with all those signs everywhere telling one the staff at this place or another dont deserve abuse however putrid their service is.  It also creates a nice revenue stream to local authorities in £80 fines.  Is swearing ALL emotional violence - or does some of it fulfill an emotional need to release aggression safely?

Anyway this being a BBC3 documentary we jump in a decontextualised conversation with Dr Emma Short at the point where she says.

Dr Emma Short: Well, I dont think they are necessarily thinking about the family watching it to be honest.  It's just a joke.

Richard Bacon : Emma is there a typical profile to these people that troll?

Dr Emma Short:  Well, it's very hard to say.  It all depends on the motivation.  Why are they doing it?  Some people are doing it to intimidate, to frighten, to control and other people are doing it purely for notoriety.... to get their own following. 

Note... that no one could be doing it simply because they dislike what's being said? 

Of course saying controversial things to get a following is called self promotion when trolls do it ... but not when Richard does it on the wireless... because that is entertainment,.. and there must be a strict dividing line between the two...?


Richard Bacon : These forums seem to encourage people to abuse in a very extreme way, dont they?

Unlike the professional media, of course, which employs Julie Burchills, Victor Lewis-Smiths, Jan Moirs, Allison Pearsons and James Dellingpoles by the bucketload precisely for their measured opinions and not to sensationalise, vilify and bully.  One might present the hypothesis that it is not that people are bullying online that upsets Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount Rothermere as much as the idea that while Facebook now has 900,000,000 users the Daily Mail's paper circulation has been falling rapidly.  In January 2011 it hit a 10-year circulation low and is dangerously close to dropping below its psychological benchmark of 2m readers, with a fall of 3.33% to 2,030,968, down 1.83% year on year. The online version of the Daily Mail now stands at 3 million hits ... Maybe it is not bullying the Daily Mail objects to ...just who the bullies in society are?  To quote Bacon himself "Columnists hate Bloggers because they represent a power shift".... or something like that. 

We'll skip over the paradox that some people seem to actually like getting hatemail:




Dr Emma Short: Ummm ... if you're someone who lives their life largely online...(says who?) I think that margin begins to blur and actually it's just cyberspace.  It's a behaviour I'm engaging in, I like doing it, I'll send another message.... and the impact of that you're having almost become irrelevant because ...the reward is the behavious its self it feels good.  You get nastier and nastier.

This may be true that trolls have an
excess of free time but it is still an assumption that trolls dont have a life outside the internet.  When you say something people dont want to hear online "you've got no life except on the internet" is an easy ad hominem attack on your critic. 

No one attacks people who write on paper in this way (although it is very often true) as the printed word is somehow more respectable..?  And no one questions whether Richard Bacon and his "Troll Hunters" have an
excess of free time.  Even when at least one of them later claims to be monitoring the internet purely as a hobby?!?

Richard Bacon : So is the troll who is relentlessly targeting me doing it for noteriety, attention or something more complex...?

dick_bacon_boom
@richardpbacon bullshit you **********
logic a guest is free to swear, s*********
3 Jun 2010

I tried to approach him online to find out.  That didn't work.  So I want to unmask him.  If I find out his identity perhaps I can contact him in the real world to get some answers.

dick_bacon_boom
@richardpbacon bullshit you could have jumped in anytime.  By that
logic a guest is free to swear, slander etc if they decide to
3 Jun 2010


dick_bacon_boom
@richardpbacon some thoughts on todays programme
http//i-hate-richard-bacon.tumblr.com
3 Jun 2010


dick_bacon_boom
@richardpbacon a new low today letting that retarded old man give
such graphic details of what he saw yesterday.  truly disgusting
3 Jun 2010


dick_bacon_boom
@richardpbacon i think that you like this extra attention even though
it's negative ... go on admit it.
3 Jun 2010


These posts seem rather tame to me.  Although there are 4 of them on the same day and they're not flattering they do seem to be, at least superficially, an analysis of the content of the program?  Also the tone is much calmer?  That might be because at the time of these posts Richard has not yet had Dick Bacon Boom's blog removed from the internet.  Of course Mr Dick Bacon Boom's motivation for saying this may be bad but should things really not be said simply because they are the result of malice?  I fear we are going to lose a lot of good writing if people start having to be nice to each other before writing anything down.

At this point in time Dick Bacon Boom is not called Dick Bacon Boom but (lady's most private parts) of the Day and you can find his timeline on the way back machine
http://wayback.archive-it.org/1740/20100609044226/https://twitter.com/(lady's most private parts)_of_the_day

By the way you cant remove my pages from the internet because they're not a blog - they're hand coded.  That hasn't stopped people from tying ...and if you want to leave comments on it you cant do that either.




Anyway back to Richard Bacon who is now with "It Expert" Paul ... probably one of the world's most ineffectual private detectives.  A man so comically incompetent (more an Inspector Clouseau than a Sherlock Holmes of the internet) in his attempts to track down Dick Bacon Boom that he should be submitted to the Leveson Inquiry as an argument for sometimes allowing the press to just hack things.

The only name on his twitter account refers to me.  There are no photos of him.  No email address. IT expert Paul is going to give me some tips on unmasking anonymous haters.
 
Richard (to Paul): How hard is it to track down somebody who posts anonymously?

http://www.metro.co.uk/showbiz/pictures/photos-00429/richard-bacon-under-attack/1

Richard: This guy that I'm dealing with he's not given much away, has he?

This is why I and many other hate this ****** Beer And Pizza is on ITV4 right now, Rastas

Paul: Well, your hater doesn't leave that many clues on his twitter feed.  He's quite intelligent.  He seems to use the technology quite well.  It's going to be a bit of a challenge.  So what we need to do is maybe set up a trap. 

Richard : Like a honey trap?

Paul: A honey trap.  We need to tempt him out into the open.  Find his email address.  And when we fin
d his email address then perhaps we can find more details about him online or even find his IP address.


Of course there are ethical issues involved in Entrapment. 

Is Richard encouraging his troll into being more and more aggressive in order to make good television? 

Legally entrapment arises when a person is encouraged by someone in some official capacity to commit a crime. If entrapment occurred, then some prosecution evidence may be excluded as being unfair, or the proceedings may be discontinued altogether 

The current law on entrapment is defined by this 2001 case where some customs officers went a bit far in trying to provoke people into committing crime.

Of course when considering the actions of journalists like Mr Bacon the law is far less clear ...but I did find an article in everyone's favorite bedtime read the "Law Society Gazette" in which David Sleight, a solicitor at Kingsley Napley cogitates on the legal issues surrounding entrapment by hacks...

It is submitted that those factors (below), adapted from Lord Nicholl’s speech and applied to individuals entrapped by undercover reporters, may offer some guidance in consideration of whether it is in the public interest to prosecute someone who commits an offence in those circumstances:

Whether or not the undercover reporter did more than present an unexceptional opportunity to commit a crime;

The reason for the particular sting operation. Is the reporter/newspaper acting in good faith and not, for example, as part of malicious vendetta against a particular suspect?;

The nature and extent of the reporter’s participation. The greater the inducement and the more forceful or persistent his overtures, the more likely that the conduct might have brought about commission of crime by a suspect who would normally avoid crime of that kind;

The suspect’s criminal record. This will only be relevant if it can be linked to other factors grounding reasonable suspicion that the defendant is ­currently engaged in criminal activity.


The Vine had struck a fibre: which about
If clings my Being--let the Dervish flout;
Of my Base metal may be filed a Key,
That shall unlock the Door he howls without.


Richard: By searching for references to his twitter feed and blog elsewhere Paul has managed to come up with some leads.  He's found a facebook page that promotes links to the both.  Above the postings is the name of the person who's put them up.

Paul: We found this entry here.  We dont know if this person is your troll but he's certaonly promoting the troll's tumblr account.

On this page there's an online conversation which took place back in 2010 when the three hate accounts first appeared.  Paul thinks that the person who posted the links to promote these sites could be the same person who set them up.  We can perhaps click on his name and find out more details about him.

Richard: So in that Facebook page here he put a link to that tumblr account that's why we're interested in him.

Paul:  I think that tumblr accout is connected to the twitter account.  So how does this guy know about the existence of that tumblr account

The Facebook site gives the name of our suspect.  With clever detective work Paul manages to find a matching email account within minutes.

Paul:  And that's confirmation that that is the right email address

Paul then uses that address to uncover other details including his name and home town.

According to website pipl Dick Bacon Boom is 43 and lives in Great Britain.

Paul: His photobucket account, his bebo account, his myspace page ... I'm sure there's a load more as well

Richard: Are we getting closer to unmasking my hater?  He's 43 years old.  That wouldn't surprise me if that was about the age of this troller because he's a 5live listener ...I never thought we were dealing with someone who was say 25.
.

Paul:  No the language used is quite well constructed.  Good language apart from the obvious bad words.  Good use of apostrophes.  He's quite educated.

Richard:  So now we have an email address for our 43 year old suspect the next step is to get an email for Dick Bacon Boom to see if they match.  If they do we've hit the jackpot.

Paul suggested I lure him into revealing his email address by pretending to be someone who hates me.  But making contact with him could prove tricky.  My hater hasn't tweeted lately.  It seems to be my radio show which triggers his hatred and he think he's been quiet because I've just become a dad and taken some time off work.

I'm back on the radio today for the first time in a fortnight.  I've been off because I've had a baby and I'm going to try and smoke him out.  Whenever I say anything ironically on twitter he doesn't see that.  Takes it seriously.  So I'm going to say "Back on the radio today with guests Jason Manford and Reginald D Hunter.  I imagine that every single person is delighted by this".  If he responds I'll be one step closer to tracking him down.  As abusive as my troll is I think it goes with the territory of being a presenter.  But for the hundreds of thousands of victims of cyberbullying the threat ...

Daily Mail Reporter writes :
Victims of cyber-stalking suffer more than victims of "traditional" bullying, research found
Note that this article is about stalking not just trolling.... there is some distinction but not always.

...seems much more personal and unexpected.  In recent months the papers have been full of research citing just how widespread the problem is.

According to some of these studies the perpetrators dont actually understand how serious what they actually do actually is.  Because they cant see the impact of what they're sending they fail to understand how much stress cyberbullying causes.  And also the bullies with often post anonyomously.  So you see the abuse.  You know it's someone you know because of what they've said but you dont know who it is which I think is probably even more disturbing.

Girls Aloud singer Nicola Roberts is one of the few celebrities to take this on and draw attention to the damage online hate can do.  After writing about her own experience at the hands of bullies Nicola was inundated with tweets from victims desperate for her support.



For those of you who've got a life ...Nicola Roberts is, to quote Chris Moyles, "the ginger one from Girls Aloud".  DJ Chris Moyles stated on air that she was ...erm ...a bit "ropey".  This was when Ms Roberts was 17.  She claims that this led to a spate of online bullying and became an anti-bullying campaigner.  Of course  it is not fair comment to insinuate that members of manufactured girl bands are selected solely for their looks.  There is no political inference here.

At this point I have to say that it had crossed my mind that Moyles or someone inspired by Moyles might be Richard Bacon's troll.  There seems to be a bit of a feud going on between Moyles and Richard Bacon and Chris Evans (old mates from the Big Breakfast)?  Older readers will remember how Chris Evans once had Moyles's gig and behaved so badly he lost it... When Moyles complained on air that the BBC weren't paying him on time Evans in a spiteful interview on Richard Bacon's 5 Live program stated that this was beyond the pale and, in an outbreak or ageism (that is now illegal) that Moyles was too old for his gig.  Of course Moyles and his followers may not be Bacon's critic ...but that there would be to some people a commercial interest in bashing Bacon is not in doubt.  Would such kind of negative campaigning be valid criticism or workplace bullying?

Rival broadcaster Talksport made a general complaint in 2010 to the BBC Trust about Richard Bacon's program being classified as "news output"  http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/media/news/a314768/bbc-trust-dismisses-5-live-news-complaint.html

Previously the 1-3 pm slot had been taken by veteran broadcaster Simon Mayo and "debates, interviews and reviews" including coverage of Prime Minister's question time.  When the BBC decided to relocate 5Live from London to Manchester Simon Mayo refused to go and dematerialised to Radio 2 replacing Chris Evans.  Fortunately Terry Wogan had about this time decided to fall on his toupee  which meant that Chris Evans could be moved into early moring Radio 2 slot putting him back in direct competition with Chris Moyles who took over his gig on Radio 1 a long time ago... About this time Chris Evans appears on 5Live to slag off Chris Moyles for being too old and falling back on himself for material.

Dick Bacon Boom claims to be a big Simon Mayo fan.  Anybody want to come up with a conspiracy theory?

Nicola: It's hard to see kids treating ...saying ...like I had ... scared to go to school today ...or ...there's a group of girls in college just telling me to just kill myself.... It's almost like someone can say something and it's like God that's below the belt.  There seems to be no belt now ... people just say whatever they think. 

Imagine people just saying whatever they think, where will it all end?

Richard Bacon: Do you think these social media platforms make people slightly exaggerate their opinions?  In other words the bulling is worse because there ...there ...talking to an audience to some extent.

Nicola: I do and it;s sort of like erm... all about self ego isn't it so ..erm ... so to say something nasty to someone else automatically elevates you to a higher place.  It's like feeding a side of society that really does not need to be fed.

Carney Bonner is a former victim of cyberbullying who now runs mentoring sessions to help others protect themselves against the bullies.  Actually Carney Bonner is or was the "Youth MP for Swindon" and even has a foundation named after him... Reading what he has to say carefully ...when Mr Bonner states that he slit his wrists he was not actually commiting suicide but "self harming".  Not that one should have to actually commit suicide before people are concerned but I did feel there was an element of parsimony with the truth in telling people you have "slit yours wrists" which creates a mental picture of actually cutting the veins when you've self harmed ...but not in a potentially fatal way.  Still, the cause is a good one so does it matter if anyone is mislead?  Having said that it does seem that Mr Bonner's endeavour is on the whole positive thing and I'm probably looking for things to moan about but then ...that's what I do... interestingly I also managed to track down by accident another particpant in the discussion Gemma Cain. Far from being a randomly selected internet abused teenager Gemma Cain 16 is, according to the Burnham and Highbridge Weekly News Member of Youth Parliament for Sedgemoor and King Alred School. Are these really internet abused teenages or the new proto-wannabe-political class getting in pratice at backing in-vogue career advancing causes that they think have no detractors? Or both? Given these kids hobby seems to be forcing their political views on others it shouldn't be too much of a shock that some of them get trolled?  Or did they all go into politics simply because they were bullied by their peers?

Reading what he has to say in these interviews reminded me why I find all those so surreal.  He states that "Wherever we are we need our mobile phones on us, much of the day I spend on my laptop, which meant there was no escaping what I was going through".  One has to question - do children need to spend "all day" on their laptop?  And indeed do all of them need a phone.  Okay, it has safety benefits ... but they may be undermined by you children killing themselves.

Such a different world to my childhood where the only people who had phones were the homeowners/person who paid the rent.  The nearest we got to mobile phones was telephoning each other from the two public phone boxes on either side of the Common.  With no Facebook available the mediums for self expression were limited to stand up, writing something that was actually good enough to get published or toilet walls and park benches.  I must admit to having seen a marked improvement in park benches since the internet came in and Facebook became the park bench / toilet cubical wall.



The bench at the top of Waller Lane, Caterham back in the 1980s

For those of us who wanted to write the only escape was magazines or the small press.  I wrote loads of tiny poems for small press magazines circulating to less than 1000 people an issue - and one or two more mass market bits and pieces like silly one liners for Viz.  The BBC would also take one liners off writers.  I hate writing one liners.  It's the mental equivalent hari-kiki.  Far too much like real work.



Above is part of the editorial of the May 2006 edition of Acumen poetry magazine in which editor Patricia Oxley bemoans the gulf between the number of people wanting to write and the number of people wanting to read poetry.  In the old days due to the cost of paper if you wanted to say anything (off stage) in writing you  had to go through an editor... (like Ms Oxley) and this meant that there was usually some other kind of ability arbiter on your work to reign you in (a bit). 

The intrinsic costs of paper (which is actually quite expensive) meant that poetry its self became limited. Poems were limited to 40 lines in order to cram enough authors into any particular publication to make it have enough contributors who were also subscribers to make it financially viable and magazines revolved around their editors. The editors while filtering out a lot of rubbish would also select authors who wrote like them.  One interesting aspect of the small press that was annoying was that, of course, it was subsidised by the government which meant that a lot of bad poems were published but strangely the operating costs of the magazines didn’t seem to go away but actually increased.  Given that the internet now means anyone can be as long winded and boring as they like (take this page as an example) it is a curious thing but the small press still exists. Still begging for subscribers and in a continual state of self proclaiming penury.

The point at which I gave up on the small press was when I was doing a gig on a Saturday night and an envelope fell through the door which contained a poem I had written 2 years previously and which the editor of a magazine (not the one above) had sat on for 6 months before telling me she was going to publish it. She then sat on it for another year before sending me the above mentioned letter a week before publication which contained “my” poem literally rewritten by her so it was actually hers. So I wrote a letter back with lots of rude words (which would now be illegal under the 2003 Communications Act) in asking what she was up to which she printed without explaining the game she had played of sitting on it for 18 months before suggesting alterations. After that I couldn’t be bothered with it any more. Mainly because the internet and stand up had set me free. I didn’t really want to write poems I wanted to have a voice. And in the world before the internet apart from novelists, comics and writers more or less everyone else was voiceless.  Now everyone has a voice ... I suppose there's got to be a downside to that.

Carney Bonner: When we have our Q&A sessions we see actually a lot more people than we think have been affected by cyberbullying or are being cyberbullied.  The statistics have come out that 1 in 3 people between 11 and 17 can be cyberbullied ...with girls three times more likely.  It goes to school with you, it goes home with you, it goes in the shower with you ...it goes everywhere you go.

So being a teenage girl means you're 3 times more likely to be targeted than a boy.  Jemma, Larne and Charlie have all been sent abusive posts online.  Larne, tell me a bit about how it affected you?

Larne: I had to actually go on medication for a while and I would lock myself in my room because I was so worried about everybody.

Of course who does know the answer to this without evidence but according to University of Durham psychologist Anne Campbell : "Typical male physical violence is largely a form of showy sexual competition between men for reproductive access to the most desirable women.  The types of social aggression among women I described in my previous article also appears to be a form of intrasexual competition  for the most desirable men, but it avoids the comparatively higher cost of physical harm to women’s bodies."  Why most men cant be nasty to each other without the getting the shit kicked out of them beats me.

Do you think it's more powerful because it's in writing.  When you see something in words?

Larne: I think so because if it's like on your facebook wall or on twitter you keep seeing it and other people keep seeing it as well.

And the person who bullied you is it weird when you see them the next day at school?

(we now cut to a different girl but Richard doesn't explain this is another interview - although later there is an establishing wide shot where we see all three girls.  Of course interviewing 3 people and cutting between them to create one narrative gives you three different sets of answers to cherry pick the answer you actually want from.)

I think it's really strange.  I had a case where someone had made a comment to me on Facebook.  I went into school the next day and they came up to me and gave me a hug.  "It was meant to be a joke" and I'm like "was it really because you're like ...they meant to say it or they didn't mean to say it".

(we now cut back from Charlie? to Larne.  Richard seems to direct some questions specifically to Larne but not specifically to the other interviewees).

There's a statistic, Larne that girls
between 11 and 17 are three times more likely to be the victim of cyberbullying than boys.  Why do you think that might be?

Larne: I think girls seem more vulnerable to others as girls put on such a strong front

Sometimes bullies will say I'm just expressing an opinion - I'm allowed to do that? - what do you say to that?

Larne: You have to think of other people.  You have to think of what consequences your actions have.  And sometimes I think the people like this a) realise and b) are they perfectly happy with the fact that they might be tipping someone over the edge.

Often the bullies just dont know how vulnerable their victims are.  Remember 15 year old Tom Mullaney who had no history of being bullied.  He took his own life after just one night of cyberbullying.

As we know Tom had been excluded from school the same day, been referred to a psychiatrist a month earlier and was on the autistic end of the spectrum.  The problem was clearly ongoing.  But Richard's heart is in the right place so it doesn't matter if he bends the truth.

Tom's Dad: These words that are coming out of another 14 year old's mouth about "I'm going to beat you up ...I'm going to fight you ... and then I'm going to beat you up some more ... and when you get off the floor I'm going to beat you again"  And everybody's going "yeah yeah yeah"  If I dont do anything they're going to think I'm a coward or if I do anything I'm going to get into trouble.

I'm actually not gonna stop punching you in your ***** face. 19 May

Tom's Brother: He says come to school tomorrow and I will beat you up on first lesson, second lesson break time third lesson lunch time and last lesson

(Underneath this we can see on another piece of paper another cutout screengrab  that reads

he has to fight me otherwise I'm gonna bang him for not fighting me as well

:)

Richard Bacon: And do you think the people that wrote these messages in the first place dont fully understand what they did?

Unfortunately for Richard ...Tom's brother goes on to completely undermine the point he's trying to make ...

Tom's Brother: I dont think they understand that what they've said is over the top because they dont know my brother what was going on in his personal life. 

One might ask how could they?  Although clearly threatening to beat someone up is a crime they are children.  Is not the real crime that both they and Tom seem to not be supervised online?  They lower age limit for Facebook is 13 ... should not someone be monitoring these minors rather than trying to dump on them sole guilt for Tom's suicide?

Tom's Brother: It literally tore my family to pieces.  This house feels so empty without my brother.... and now he's not here it's too quiet.

Ashley told me his family's anger and grief was only deepened by the vile pictures and comments that appeared on Tom's tribute page. 

Now here I think Richard has a point - there is a hole in the law that defacing and photoshopping personal photographs is not a bigger deal.  Posting childish bullying comments can be a spur of the moment lapse in taste or consideration.  You cant really say that about defacing people's personal photos which takes much more time and effort.  Although it is probably just not wise to put your photos in the public domain.  To illustrate this point here's a picture of 4 of my ex-neighbours in Caterham when I was growing up. 


This is one of the more tasteful images on this Joey Deacon memorial site.  A few are of a pornographic nature.  That said part of me was still pleased that all these years later someone still remembers Tom, Ernie, Michael and Joey Deacon.  Also I'm afraid the site does make at least one legitimate satirical point - if it took all 4 of them to write the book - how much of the original material was actually poster-boy-for-Mrs-Thatcher's-care-in-the-comminity-scheme Joey's?  And you never know he might actually have liked some of the content ...although most of it is simply insulting... anyway .... I'm on tangent again.  Suffice to say thanks to photoshop satirists no longer have to be Sir John Tenniel

And I think I'm getting closer to meeting one of the people who I believe could be responsible for defiling Tom's memory.  I'm about to call Damon Evans.  I've been talking to him on Youtube and Twitter over the last month.

Damon Evans : Can I phone you back on this number and let you know?

Richard Bacon (on phone): Yeah yeah of course you can yeah

...and I think he may be responsible for posting this abuse on Tom Mullaney's RIP tribute page.

Screengrab ***** Get Well (Damon's photo - not exactly a cloak on anonymity.  May other photos and likes on the comment)

Ok well there you go.  He's agreed to do an interview which is good news.  He sounds sincere ...erm... I suppose because of the thing he does there's a bit of me ...er ... it's not particularly rational ...so a bit of me wonders whether he'll actually turn up ...erm ...we'll find out.

But first I want to find out more about how trolls operate.  It's high profile tragedies that make the news that attract the most RIP trolls

Richard now goes on to examine the case of

Horatio Chapple - the Eton schoolboy savaged and killed by a Polar Bear. 


Now I hope Horatio's relatives wont be offended by me saying this but unfortunately the whole story is ...



...I'm not being cruel.  It just is.  What is funny and what is moral are not the same thing.  While it is tragic when any young person dies... the circumstances surrounding Horiato's death combined with the social and class issues involved on top of that ... add onto this the politics surrounding British colonial era Expeditions to the Poles ... and, of course, that perennial British favorite ...over sentimentalism towards animal stories ... add to this the penchant of the upper classes to give their children comedy names like Horatio and ...there is so much comedy to be milked from this incident it's probably only a matter of time before someone writes a Fringe show about it.

....erm  ...I think it was E.B.White who said "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it." but come on ... although it's very sad for all concerned ...it does sound like something out of Hilaire Belloc's book of Cautionary Tales... does it not...?


It is a cruel truth of comedy that most suffering is simply hilarious - as long as it is someone else's.  And if we're going to stop gleaning guilty amusement from people who died in unusual and surreal circumstances that smack slightly of hubris someone's going to have to take http://www.darwinawards.com down

Newsreader: Nearly 1000 came to celebrate a magnificant young man who died...

Chapple's death was a big media event covered by the BBC with over 1000 people attending his funeral service at Sailsbury Cathederal.  Harry's Godfather's speech is available on the above link.  It contains some good one liners.  Such as "Horatio's demonstration of how to use superglue was less heroic and became an example of what not to do after he successfully glued his fingers together"....

It also contains the interesting statement

"Accounts of what happened on that final day have been both confusing and contradictory, but we now know that Horatio was standing up in front of the Polar Bear before the end. We will never know if his actions may have distracted the bear providing others a few valuable seconds to help end the attack and save lives, but we do know that he stood there, facing his attacker as brave and determined as ever".

How British.  Hurrah!  Sorry ... I am trying not to be childish I really am...

There's even a bit of praise for the positive side of social media platforms.

"What else can I tell you about Horatio? As I read about 400 of the thousands of letters and online postings I found that many words and phrases describing him were repeated often. Intelligent 144 mentions, talented 58, hard-working and persevering 111, polite and having impeccable manners 86, lovely 198, inclusive 76, interested in others 139, good-looking or 'not-hard on the eyes' 98, charming 105, inspiring 112, gentle and easygoing 135 and kind 273, the sense or statement that it was a privilege or honor to know him, all of them."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2109238/Horatio-Chapple-Death-Eton-schoolboy-savaged-polar-bear-COULD-prevented.html

17 year old Horiato Chapple died after being attacked by a polar bear on a school's exhibition to the arctic.  It made news around the world. 

Newsreader: ...but the 17 year old never returned from his most ambitious adventure.  He was killed by a polar bear on an expedition to Svalbart....

After his death several tribute sites were set up to Horatio on Facebook.  One of them by his family and others anonymously by his friends. As is usually the case the vast majority of cases posted were comforting... but then the trolls started to appear.  Both on tribute pages to horiato and on tribute pages to the Polar Bear who killed him.

Godfather Harry's Page F ... Friends and ... Community 543 like this.
RIP Horiatio Chapple Public figure 4,160 like this.

What do you get when cross a polar bear with an Eton schoolboy?  A polar bear

6 August
****u r fucking disgusting****
****you fucking sick****

Horatio's godfather tried to protect the family from the vile messages - a task which was clearly as easy as nailing a jelly to a ceiling.

******* 1 less conservative
another eton schoolboy tosser vote r.i.p. PB

Horatio's Godfather Harry: It really sort of snowballed [not the word I'd use if I wanted to avoid polar bear puns] into really horrendous comments and erm postings and erm from people saying you know just ... you know... unimaginable things but ...including things like he shouldn't have been there ...he deserved to die ...it's all his fault ...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH LMAO

******** He gave it a good go though

******** I wish the polar bear would of killed them all.  And

******** Attention seeker aha......

Well, that's opinion, isn't it? The problem is it isn't an opinion Harry wants to hear ...but does that mean it shouldn't be said...?

....to graphic pictures of dismembered bodies and comments along them and just ...it ... was just unbelievable.

The use of graphic photoshopped images may be harder to defend but could they be much more graphic than the ones the Daily Mail printed of the butchered animal?  Of course if they are the family's original images they could sue for breach of copyright.  However, by using Facebook people probably dont realise that they are relinquishing control of their images under the terms of service.  Mark "I stole everyone's online photo on campus and used them to set up an illegal site requesting people to state who was hot and who was a boiler but didn't get chucked out for it" Zuckerberg reassures customers that "In reality, we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want. The trust you place in us as a safe place to share information is the most important part of what makes Facebook work." But since his company has been floated on the stock exchange the decision is not really his to make any more ... and probably never was.

Possibly the law could be tightened to make the photoshopping of images of the recently dead a criminal offense but would that not have free speech implications?

Harry set about scouring the tribute sites and forwarding the good messages onto the family.  Unlike other websites Facebook has clear rules to prevent trolls harassing ....

Henny Newall RIP Horatio
You will forever hold a place in my heart
You will be messed ever so much and my ***

...and intimidating others.  And it gives those who create tribute pages the tools to block and remove content.  But because some of the tribute pages to Horatio were set up by other people... it was difficult for Harry to remove the abuse.

Harry: There probably isn't a simple way of stopping people from creating pages.... in any circumstance... I think it would be great to have an official way of creating an official tribute page. That was through the sort of Facebook system.

Frustrated at his inability to control Horatio's tribute sites. Harry Cunliffe sent emails to five senior executives at Facebook including the founder Mark Zuckerberg . 


Harry Cunliffe: I had no response at all from Facebook and I was really shocked.  I was really surprised it makes no sense to me that a corporation that size that's become extremely wealthy that they wouldn't be taking responsibility towards dealing with urgent issues in an urgent manner.

I have to admit that (after I had stopped laughing) I decided I'm with Harry here and with some of the other victims of Facebook's passive attitudes above.  Having been both banned from and having to go through a tortuous process to get some libel removed from Facebook myself (they actually banned me at one point by mistake) I know how he feels. 

I wouldn't have minded as much if I actually used the thing except to contact acts who've forgotten they're booked ... Facebook's not as much fun when you promote a gig.  Unfortunately we at the Pear Shaped Comedy Club have not access to libel lawyers but I managed to deal with my problem by slightly more devious methods.  However, I'm not going to tell you how as I come from a class that is of the opinion that the po po should be the absolute absolute last resort and I wouldn't want to get anyone in trouble or spend tedious hours in court ...anyway...

That said Harry struck me as a bit naive.  It's hardly a shock that Facebook are slow in dealing with online harassment.  Just look at the statistics - in 2010 Facebook had
350,000,000 users and 1,200 employees. 
(it now has over 900 million active users). 

Using my fingers that gives an employee to user ratio of
1 employee to 290,000 users. 

I mean, you get what you pay for.  The reason Facebook is free to use is the customer support is crap.  To an extent this is a bit like flying Ryan Air and complaining that the staff were not attentive... or going into MacDonalds and bitching there's no table service.

The entire focus of the company has been growth towards its inevitable floatation - needed ro recoup the initial investers their investment back.  Facebook is just a huge mass of self-re-generating code that has only changed to become more consumer friendly in its moderation of bullying since the negative publicity has started in the last year or so to bleed them punters.  The previous main function of Facebook was to increase punters and increase traffic.  That's where its value to investors lies.   I mean this is the same Zuckerberg who was charged by the administration of Harvard with breach of security, violating copyrights, and violating individual privacy, and faced expulsion for his prototype Facemash.  Yup, Mr Business Ethics there... Facebook was born out of an experiment in social bullying and satire ...I dont think it's going to become the soul of social responsibility any time soon.  We wont even get into the acromonious bitching matches between the founders chronicled the in film.

Of course this may partly be a cultural difference.  The USA where Facebook is based has NO rights to privacy at all.  And next to zero restrictions on freedom of speech (save incitement to crime, attacking the state etc).   The First Amendment to the Constitution was adopted on December 15, 1791. The Amendment states:


Ordinary members of the public in the USA may be priced out of democracy since you need to be a millionaire to stand for elected office as there is no cap on electoral expenditure but they do get the "freedom" to be racist and bigoted in public while trolling the internet.  Which is good because it means even if our artists are too castrated by legislation to make satire with any cutting edge or lack of taste BBC3 can always buy such material from Seth MacFarlane that isn't short on RIP gags about the Kennedys and others ...



Harry's leters are shown on screen.  They are not completely readable but here's what I could deciper...


that this is the world we live in now; thousands looting around
impossible to even have a tribute page to a young man's
inappropriate and hateful comments from cowards hiding
Chapple was a young man so clearly and diametrically opposed
engage in these activities, with a bright, procutive and compar
him apart from those who would use his death to take cheap

Dear Nicky Jackson Colaco

I need your help urgently regarding an issue
family in grief who are on Facebook.  Iam
Zuckerberg, Founder, Chris Cox, VP of Prod
Officer and Joe Sullivan, Cheif Security Officer
person to help me with this matter.  Also by

I am the Godfather of Horatio Chapple and a
Olivia Chapple.  Horatio is the wonderful 17
Friday in Norway by a Polar bear
news.


Gentle readers will note the comparison by Harry between his godson's critics and the Facebook Two.

Facebook say they have no knowledge of receiving any of the 5 registered letters Harry sent.  They say they remove offensive comments within 24 hours of them being reported but sometimes distateful images and comments including this one ...



...do not violate their rules as they're trying to strike a balance between censorship and freedom of expression.  I've looked into the law and while it defends the right to free speech it also says that sending grossly offensive...

The Communications Act 2003

127 Improper use of public electronic communications network (sections 1 and 2)

...messages can be illegal.  Facebook argue that freedom of speech and the right to criticise makes some offensive images and sick jokes on tribute sites acceptable but when I look at images like this one that we saw earlier and I think about the devastating impact that that must have had on an already grieving family ... I do wonder if they're calling it right.  If they really are best placed to act as judge and jury over what is and is not offensive.

The thing that's difficult here is that the story was its self was also the subject of a huge controversy.  Like Gerogia Varley's parents ...Horiato Chapple's parents are looking for someone to take legal action against someone.  In this case... prosecution of the The British Schools Exploring Society (BSES).  The British Schools Exploring Society (BSES) based at the Royal Geographical Society was founded in 1932, by a member of Captain Scott's final Antarctic Expedition of 1910-13, Surgeon Commander George Murray Levick who took this photograph of penguins in 1912...  Interestingly some of Levick's research had to be suppressed when it turned out that some penguins dont just have sex but have homosexual necrophiliac sex.  He says without RIP trolling.



Membership is open to all school children but they might be put off by the price tag of some of the expeditions which can be in the region of £10,000s - money they have to raise themselves... meaning it is mainly a playgroup for the very rich.   Although one could argue that they do return with some interesting geological samples sometimes.  Horatio's father was Field Marshal Sir John Lyon Chapple, GCB, CBE former Cheif of Staff (i.e. Head of the British Army - just below the Queen and the Prime Minister) a former president of the BSES.  Formerly the British Public Schools Exploring Society until the name was changed due to sounding too socially exclusive.  Astute observers of the British aristocracy will also have noticed that, as Sailsbury Cathederal styles him, the Hon Harry Cunliffe is in fact heir to  Baronetcy.  His father being the architect Roger Cunliffe, 3rd Baron Cunliffe who was a hereditary peer with a seat in the house of Lords until the abolition of most hereditary peers in 1999.  His great grandfather was Walter Cunliffe, 1st Baron Cunliffe who was enobled by Lloyd George for his Govenorship of the Bank of England. He was a big fan of the gold standard and famous for his epigram "Mr. [John Maynard] Keynes, in commercial circles, is not considered to have any knowledge or experience in practical exchange or business problems."  He was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge.  Roger went to Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge.  Harry broke the mould by going to St. Thomas College and Concordia College in Minnesota from Eton and becoming a lifestyle coach after 20 years in banking. 



Michael Reid, 29, was invited to be the guest of Sir Ranulph "I'm always on the news showing people my frozen fingers falling off" Fiennes (also a Baronet)  third cousin of actors Joseph and Ralph Fiennes and "distant cousin to the British Royal Family" who's father, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, commanded the Royal Scots Greys as he collected an honorary doctorate at Plymouth University for shooting the polar bear.  I'm sure there was a general point about social mobility and the political promotion of a particular set of values that I was trying to make here but I've forgotten what it was.

It all brought me back to my time in the Scouts when the then Scout leader took us up tall mountains.  I've always been strongly of the opinion that "adventure" was not for me as I am firmly in the take no risks and stay alive camp...


...but he kept our spirits up with stories of all the mountains he had fallen off and all the adventurers who had had fingers frozen off.... before he died prematurely falling off a ladder trying to change a lightbulb.  Which seemed a sad yet slightly ironic end. Of course his death was very sad ... but was it also ironic? Sadly yes.  Okay it wasn't as ironic as when  another Scout leader became Conservative leader of Tandridge Council only to be revealed to have been perpetrating a massive fraud for which he spent 5 years in jail ...but I'm not going to tell you who that was as I'm not Greater Manchester Police... and well, they did take us places and seemed nice people.  Just couldn't get my head round the "adventure" thing.

Younger readers will probably not be as familiar with the antics of old British heros than older readers but there was a time in the 70s and 80s when "Scott of the Antarctic" was very frequently on the box.  With its depressing storyline having made it the fourth most popular movie at the British box office in 1949.  Like "Reach for the Sky" without the optimism it was a story of heroism of the kind we dont seem to have any more because less people have been shot at since the second world war.  Scott's Terra Nova expedition was a joint enterprise between the pre-WWI admiralty, the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society with public money matched by private donations...



... and sponsorship deals the Olympics would be proud of.  I'm not sure what the message of the film was but it was sort of along the lines of ...okay, we cant put a man on the moon and we no longer have an empire but we did come 2nd at something once.  By the way if you want to visit the antarctic sitting at the south pole looking at particles that land there because there's no van allen belt is one of the jobs that's always going in physics.  So there is still some point in going to these places.  Prehaps if the BSES sent Eton schoolboys on trips to sit at the south pole for 6 months completely isolated throughout the antarctic winter counting neutrios less accidents would happen.  Still if we can get idiotic posh people to risk their lives collecting geological samples then why not encourage that...? To be fair it is actually research...ter.

But what about the hunt for my own hater Dick Bacon Boom?  His messages go beyond criticism.  He's fantasised about my death and has sent links full of abuse to my family but he stops tweeting when I take a couple of weeks off from my radio show for the birth of my son.  So I posted an antagonistic comment to see if it would get him tweeting again. 

So it would seem the problem may be Richard's radio show.  It seems to me this is having his cake and eating it a bit.  You cant complain that your troll hasn't been bugging you then simultaneously claim he's an obsessive? 

Again Richard repeats his smear that since his troll said he hoped Richard's plane crashed after Richard said he was getting on a plane this is "fantisising" about his death.  Aren't we allowed to have fantasies?  Okay, putting a picture of Richard on his background all beaten up may be taking things a bit beyond fantasy into incitement but... also Richard suggests by omission that the abuse his family received was unsolicited but we know (because he said it earlier) that his wife has tried to "reason" with the troll and he has put up pictures of his family and friends on twitter.  Yes, I'm being devil's advocate but I feel someone should.  I have my Horace Rumpole hat on at the moment.  Who's really obsessing about who here?

So let's see if he's active.  He's changed his profile picture [and wallpaper] ... it's now a picture of me when I got beaten up about 3 years ago with a busted nose and some bruises.  He's now mentioned my son...

Using a picture of Bacon beaten up is fairly indefensible but it has to be said that if Mr Bacon mentions his son on air is surely fair to allow people to comment on that?

@charlottechurch is a fucking moron etc #leveson etc #5Live etc #whogivesafuckabouttherthoughtsonthis etc #hacking etc (21 hours ago)

@Fearncotton is officially a fucking twat.  Good Day! (25 Nov)

oh you poor fucker @ArthurBacon ! Imagine having that **** as your data #richardbacon #shitdads# #5live
(25 Nov)

interviewing Gina Yashere right now ... coming across ... condesending and a little bit racist #5live

Richard Bacon (viewing the twitter feed of Dick Bacon Boom) : Your reaction to it is quite strange.  I laugh because it's so ridiculous.  Erm ...for the record my son does not have a twitter account ...erm ... it does bother me...  how could that not bother you ...when there's a theme of violence to it ... when he's mentioning my newborn son ... it the past he's tweeted my wife ... my mum ... erm ... but it also intrigues me because I want to know why? Why he's doing this? Why this utter obsession?  I want to know what he gets out of it.  And I want to know what he's like.  I want to meet him.  I want to talk to him. 

Nobody has ever seen Big Brother. He is a face on the hoardings, a voice on the telescreen. We may be reasonably sure that he will never die, and there is already considerable uncertainty as to when he was born. Big Brother is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself to the world. His function is to act as a focusing point for love, fear, and reverence, emotions which are more easily felt towards an individual than towards an organization.


Now he's back tweeting I want to lure him into revealing more details about himself ...when I met with IT expert Paul he said this would be crucial to uncover who Dick Bacon Boom really is.


Again Mr Bacon complains that Dick Bacon Boom mentions his son like there aren't loads of pictures of his son on his twitter feed - what are they there for ...if not to be commented on?  And by this point I'm starting to wonder if it is just Dick Bacon Boom who's obsessed.

43 years old Great Britain (screenshot)

I want to see if his email address matches that with Paul's prime suspect.  As Paul explained to me when we first met getting my troll's email address would unlock the key to information required to track him down.

Paul: When we find his email address then perhaps we can find more details about him online or even friend his IP address.

Richard: And what's an IP address?

Paul: An IP address is like a mobile phone number of the internet if you like.  Everything on the internet has got its own number and those numbers trace back to an internet service provider or possibly a place of work and those are the details that the police might use to er... find out who's behind an internet posting.

Richard: So to get those details that Paul might need I'm going to try to get him to reveal his email address by pretending to be someone who has some compromising photos of me.  Ones that I hope he will want to see.

I'm going to write to Dick Bacon Boom.  "Love your picture of Bacon.  My brother works in the same building as the twat..." (It's curiously enjoyable slagging yourself off in a tweet "...Got some great pics of him on his Iphone ...and then shall we just come back and see if he wants to look at them ... is that what we're doing?"

Paul: That's what we're doing.

Richard: Alright.  This is it.  This is our honeytrap.  It's actually quite exiting.  I'm pretending to be a troll....who hates me. 

JawsOfHull http://twitter.com/#!/JawsOfHull

...and it turns out I'm not the only one pretending to be a troll.  It's also a trick used by self appointed troll hunters.  People who spend hundreds of hours on the internet trying to track down and expose the very worst of the online haters.  [Rather a strange hobby notes the moron who's got the man hours to manually transcribe a Richard Bacon BBC3 documentary] I've been sent information on over a dozen RIP trolls who target tribute pages.  The troll hunter who sent me these names goes by the name of
  Michael
Fitzpatrick


Michael Fitzpatrick (who is anonymous but not a troll because his thoughts are printed on paper rather than being in the evil electronic world) is Richard Bacon's main source of information.  "Michael" has been running an on paper campaign with the help of the Daily Mail to "expose" trolls for quite some time.  It is Michael's research that led to the conviction of Sean Duffy.  Michael claims that he is a part time teacher for whom this is all a hobby.  Which sounds like the most unconvincing cover story since Rene Artois decided following a fake execution to pose as his own twin brother.  Call me Mr Cynic but Mr Fitzpatrick is either a policeman, a spook, a private detective or a hack - or a combination of any number of the 4.  Or some kind of Mary Whitehouse character from Mediawatch.



He started hunting trolls 3 years ago when he discovered a youtube account posting offensive and violent images about murdered children.  He was "incensed by it".  Michael has agreed to meet me but because he fears for his safety he wont show his face on camera.  We've also disguised his voice.  Using fake online profiles Michael has gained access to private Facebook pages where the trolls gather to plan their attacks on RIP websites.  In the 3 years since he began his hunt he's discovered just how organised and vicious trolls can be.

Indeed, according to the Daily Mail Michael Fitzpatrick's campaign goes beyond simply collating evidence against trolls to actually writing to those who he believes to be their neighbours in order to alert them to who they actually live next to and what they think. 

'What he does is he works out who they are then posts letters to their neighbours saying, 'do you know your neighbour is doing this?'

However, the morality of this activity which borders on sending out poison pen letters at the least or, if his reseach is poorly executed, could well extend into criminal libel is, of course, never examined.  Although his belief that most people actually care what their neighbours get up to is quite sweet and old fashioned.  Mine could be axe murdering serial murderers for all I care as long as they dont park infront of my garage when I've got a gig to drive to.  Mr Fitzpatrick's belief in and the Daily Mail's promotion of such vigilante justice is morally dubious in the extreme but doubtless they would justify their actions with a theory along the lines that what the state fails to police must be policed by communities themselves.  Because that always works out well.  Of course the masked Mr Fitzpatrick sees himself more as a Bruce Wayne character than the instigator of something that could possibly mutate into an internet version of the KKK.

Michael: I can just say there were hundreds of them organising.  Some of them say that they trawl through the papers every day to find out about a child who's died and they will look for an RIP page for a dead child.  If there's not one they'll set one up themselves.  There's a lot of them who have been bullied and ex-trolls have said to me that a lot of trolls are getting their own back on society by doing this.

The thing is if Mr Fitzpatrick knows this and is in collusion with Associated Newspapers why is the Daily Mail publishing so many stories about children who die anyway....? All seems a bit suspicious to me...

Also ... are there really "hundreds of trolls" all working in collusion with each other?  Should the BBC be allowed to make claims like this if it cant back them up?  During this documentary they only actually confront 2.  One the previously convicted Sean Duffy and one who's naive (or fame hungry) enough to go to an interview?


According to Michael RIP trolls are not just nasty they're dangerous.  If you annoy them they'll steal your name and your photo and post vile and inflammatory messages on sensitive tribute sites using your identity.

I'm really into necrophilia!!!!!!!

Richard: At some point this could turn into something violent.

Michael: The only surprise to me is that nobody has been killed over this because I mean they're playing on the rawest of human emotions.  It's only a matter of time before one of them gets killed or even worse an innocent person gets killed because of them.

Richard: And why are you doing this interview anonymously?

Michael: Because they could place my life and my family's life in danger.  I've seen them find trollhunters addresses and they've made loads of Facebook pages saying they're peadophiles and they abuse children.

Well, that may not be moral but if you will hound people...

Michael: When I started this I thought it was all largely about mad people or irrational people posting these crazy things on Facebook and on Twitter but then... the thing that really stood out to me about Michael is that he says that they're taking the names of real people and posting abusive messages under their names on RIP sites and endangering those people in real life and that has made me realise that this all a lot more serious than I thought it was when I began this hunt

Read this in the noose yesterday

Finally Richard gets round to plugging what he's been wanting to plug for ages...

Which raises the question why are RIP trolls getting away with posting vile messages.


 
It's the 2003 Communications Act which makes it illegal to post obscene offensive messages online. 

You could be sentanced to up to 6 months in prison for doing so. 

Unless of course your host a website abroad where they have different free speech laws and can upload without the government knowing or your ISP provider grassing you.  We haven't even touched on the sordid question of what about the harmonisation of international hate laws...



Anyway thanks Richard we get the message.


But only two trolls have been convicted in the UK using this act. 


According to academic Clare Hardakre getting enough evidence to bring a successful prosecution is tough


tion (ChiCI) and computer-supported cooperative work
ever, whilst research has been conducted on the effect of
aggressive video games and their link with offline violence
1995; van Schie and Wiegman 1997; Dill and Dill 1998
currently investigate linguistic agression online, possibly
is percieved as frivolous, insignificant or marginal
1997; 1; Merchant 2001; 295 Cho et al 2005)

Michael: Unfortunately people are often really upset by these posts they dont want their friends or family to see these things if it's on a tribute page so they delete it very quickly.  The police need evidence.  They need screenshots of these posts so that they can actually take action.  The next problem is that even if the police have the evidence trollers work very hard to keep themselves anonymous.  They'll use a whole range of different accounts.  They'll use each other's accounts.  They'll even take over innocent people's accounts.  So even if the police track right back to the person they think is the suspect they need to be able to prove did this person write this message at this time.

Colm Coss is one of only two trolls to be prosecuted in the UK.  His arrest and conviction by Greater Manchester police gives a chilling insight into the mind of a troll and the dangers they pose.

PC Julie Gurka was first alerted when she recieved a dossier of information showing RIP Facebook pages that Coss had attacked. 


PC Julie Gurka :
The person who had put the pack together (Michael Fitzpatrick) had identified Colin Coss as a troll and it explained what a troll was within the pack.  There is a lot of detective work went into that erm... from someone who is technically policing the trolls and trying to inform people of this troll.

It was the troll hunter I'd met Michael Fitzpatrick who compiled this dossier.  For the police this was new territory.  The vile comments posted by Colm Coss on tribute sites are too disturbing to repeat.  Making obscene sexual references to the deceased. 

PC Julie Gurka : A lot of it was on memorial sites for babies for people who'd died in car crashes

Coss who is unemployed and in his 30s was arrested and brought in for questioning.  His police interviews give a rare insight into the mind of a troll.  For example he justified his actions by claiming that many of the tributes on RIP pages are not from genuine mourners.

Colm Coss Police Interview Tape :    The pages are flooded with "I never knew you or your family.  I am devastated by your passing ( mumble mumble ) you what...  step back ...you never knew this person so.  I find that quite provoking ... is that ...well okay if you're going to write this inane baseless comment then I've got one of my own.


Colm Coss also admitted to deliberately making his comments as shocking as possible.

Colm Coss Police Interview Tape :  Just purely provocative.  It made me laugh.  Erm ... and it's also so over the top in my eyes that nobody takes it seriously.  You must be quite a sensitive soul

PC Julie Gurka : He wants to leave messages there to cause offense to people.  When he gets a notification that someone's replied to it that's when he gets his buzz ....that's his buzz...

In October 2010 Coss was convicted under offenses committed under the 2003 Communications act and was given and 18 week prison sentence but his short stint in prison doesn't seem to have stopped Colm Coss trolling. 
Michael Fitzpatrick the troll hunter I met who's evidence helped convict Coss has continued to keep tabs on him and has discovered the he's still posting abuse on the net. 

Richard Bacon:  And what's he trolling here ...what's this?

Michael Fitzpatrick : This is him in October he's on an RIP page for a young girl who got killed in a nightclub and he's written ...

RIP Nabila Nanfuka  One mo dead n*****?  Meh

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2051702/Nabila-Nanfuka-death-Terror-Lava-Ignite-clubbers-faces-pictured.html
Note 1A - this story is about someone from an ethnic minority dying in a tragic accident  Hillsborough kind...

Okay, so it's quite hard to feel much empathy for Colm ... but is it him posting?  Mr Bacon's just told us that people assume other people's identities online .... well, you cant have your cake and eat it ...? even Mr Bacon realises this is a problem so...

So it seems that Colm Coss could still be a troll. 
Michael also showed me evidence that Coss was also posting messages on tribute pages using the name Karen Shaw

Karen Shaw : Ma, dont hit me.
Karen Shaw : Saxon Bird.  Mate, get with the program

Since anyone can sign under anyone else's name how do you know that's really him?

It's not just Michael's screengrabs that provide evidence that Coss is still at it. 
Michael also says he confronted Coss in an online conversation.

Michael Fitzpatrick : I asked him was if he trolling again.  He said he was.  He said it was him.  He was doing it. 

(No need to call in Rumpole of the Bailey then - he said he was guilty so he must be)

Michael Fitzpatrick : I asked him why and he said he's never going to stop because he loves it and he's not scared of going back to jail again.

Just days after my meeting with Michael he spotted yet another racist post.

Colon Cross* > Justice for Anuj Bidve

How will all his children (56) and wives (24) and mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers
there Western Unvion Money exchange funds now
You didnt think of that did you?

* Are these the same people or is it all some IamSpartacus business...?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2080870/Anuj-Bidve-murder-Gunman-furious-girls-spurned-bid-chat-up.html
Note 1b that this story is about someone from an ethnic minority dying in a shooting...

which he believes could be from Coss.  It was posted on a tribute site to Anuj Bidve a student who was murdered in Salford at the end of last year.  That is what he would think of as a joke I guess it's got a streak of racism about it.  It appears to be him.  It's posted under his name but ...who knows this world is so ...odd.  Erm ... but if it is him clearly prison hasn't put him off and I'd like to know what drives him on really I'd like to ask him.  He might not answer but erm ...at least I'd go and meet Colm Coss.

We've written to Coss to see if he'll meet me so I can ask him if he's still posting horrible comments on RIP sites.  He's refused to take part in the program so I'm in manchester looking for him.  Colm Coss has been spotted by a member of the production team on a bike near an internet cafe 3 miles from the city center.

So not being able to find his own troll Richard's decided to harass Colm - Well, he's got to find someone to interview or he doesn't have a 3rd act.


Richard Bacon : Colm ... Hello my name's Richard I'm from the BBC ... We wrote to you.  Is it alright if I ask you a could of questions?


Colm: No, not really

Richard: It's just we've got some evidence from
Michael Fitzpatrick that you've been trolling...-

Colm: Allegations.  There's a difference between allegations and evidence.  You've got allegations made by him which has made to myself so...

Richard: OK.  So you know about it?

Colm: Yeah I do

Richard: So you know this one here?  Here's what I want to know Colm.  You certainly trolled sites before you went to prison.  We've got evidence that ...allegations that you have done it since you went to prison so... what I want to know really is ...why you do it?  Why do you troll?

Colm: I realise why you want to ask but I've also said I dont want to take part

Richard: Before you went to prison...

Colm: No I dont...

Richard: ...because we know you went to prison.

Colm: I dont wish to answer any questions.

Richard: Why not?

Colm: Well, I dont ...it doesn't matter.  You're just a TV program I dont have to take part.

Richard: Yeah

Colm: I'm not obliged to.  I dont wish to.

Richard: Just let me ask you this [holding the Bidve post] is that you Colm?
On the site for Anju Bidve where you've written this comment here...

Colm: Look...

Richard: ...how do all his children...

Colm: I really dont think I should be interrogated by you ...or anyone

Richard: Do you deny that ...is that you or not.

Colm: I really dont want to answer any questions and you are just asking questions and I'm not going to...

Richard: Ok, but I'm free to ask the questions by the way....

Colm: I'm free not to respond and I am ...a little bit busy.  Thankyou very much Richard [Richard has moved out of Colm's way] I really enjoy your Radio 5 shows.

Richard: It's unsettling to talk to someone like that I must say.  Erm ...he called them allegations.  He didn't exactly deny them.  Erm... he has said to Michael Fitzpatrick on the telephone that erm... that prison hasn't put him off trolling so we know that erm... so we know that much but as ever with this journey it's a bit confusing and its complex and really rather dark.  Still, it's nice to meet a listener.

It's very frustrating to Greater Manchester police that Coss may still be trolling but just underlines how difficult it is for any force to monitor social networks, gather evidence of trolling and track down the culprits.

Policeman:  We cant police Facebook and we're not going to try because it's just too big ...it's too vast.  There's far too many people on it.  People have got to be aware of the dangers of putting things on Facebook and police it themselves by making sure that they've got tight control of their own Facebook or whatever their own site so people cant make comments, cant make nasty remarks, cant steal their identity and if you really must open an RIP site then think of the consequences and try to put some kind of control over it before you press the button and send it and make it a live document.

This is quite an interesting observation.  Ironically the strength of Facebook is not just that it allows people to publish things with ease but that it allows people to control their readership.  This is probably why Facebook is the ideal platform for gossip.  And I cant help thinking that with its self restricting readership it is a mirror of the small press as well.  With the way their shares are going and their plans for "content promotion" it is only a matter of time if you ask me before it starts going on about how people need to read Facebook in order to write for Facebook.... maybe the whole thing was just flawed?




Even if you have got control over your own site there is...

Richard Bacon caught me with his camera crew this morning.  Everyone create a RB account of change your name?  Fun, not fun? (Facebook screengrab user name blurred out)

...no way of stopping trolls of creating a page in your name

Tell me about it.  I'm often mistaken for the last man hanged in Scotland.

Soon after meeting Colm Coss I found someone had stolen my identity to create a fake Facebook page and their plan was to start trolling with it.

I thought this would happen.  It's still a little bit unsettling when you see it.  But I'm glad this has happened before we finished making this program because it illustrates how some of the trolls work ...when they want to get at someone they take your real name, set up an account and start abusing people using your name.

As my hunt has gone on there's hardly been a week where...

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2101563/Wheres-son--Vile-Twitter-user-taunts-footballer-Billy-Sharp-baby-sons-death.html
Note 1c that this story is about someone from an ethnic minority suffering a bereavement... and being trolled.  Can anyone see a pattern emerging 1 a, b & c are all stories where someone is trolled for their race.?  And all in the North of England ... humm .... I think ...I'm turning into Michael Fitzpatrick

...there hasn't been a story about trolls posting horrible messages.  Yet the Government currently has no plans to get tough with trolls or with the social network sites which make it so easy for them to post messages.

As for my own hater they've posted 255 more tweets about me since I started this hunt and he's taken his profile picture to a photo of me taken when I was the victim of an assault.  But I still haven't tracked him down.  So far I've tried to get him to give me his email address by pretending I'm a fellow hater and telling him I have some compromising photos he may want to see ...but he hasn't taken the bait.  So now I'm going to send the pictures to him.  I'm going to send him a link to a made up blog and tell him that he can download the photos there and er... see if that provokes a reaction. 

I'm prepared to carry on with my attempt to meet this guy and talk to him face to face but psychologist Emma is seriously concerned.

Emma:  Clearly you as an individual embody something that he hates.

She finds it alarming that my hater Dick_Bacon_Boom has plastered his twitter page with pictures of me beaten up.

So would I.  Indeed if I was Richard Bacon I'd be wondering how I got randomly beaten up in the first place?  Had someone been waging a campaign to incite violence against Bacon for much longer than this but this is the first time the penny's really dropped?




Emma: This is a fixation upon you that has been long standing, obsessive ...

RIchard: Nearly two years now.  Is there er any chance that this could become anything more than a man in a bedroom saying stupid things?

Emma: There will be warning behaviours.  If it were to happen ... some of those will be the escalation of violent images or ...

Richard: This is recent that he's put this ... beaten up profile picture on there

Emma: Yeah.  I mean that's an escalation.  You know that's going from somewhere up... erm ...other warning behavious might be him reporting having turned up whereabout you are

Richard: So ... what would you do about this is you were me?

Emma: If I was you I would pursue some sort of intervention or advice from erm police authorities.

Richard: ...that... that very premise is really unsettling ...what's the threat?

Emma: It's hard to say I mean he's clearly rehearsing ...thinking about replaying violence ...directed towards you

Richard:  But there could be a physical threat?

Emma: Yeah

Richard:  There could be?

Emma: Yeah

Richard: Is there any chance this could be someone I know?

Emma: There is quite a high possibility of that.  Our research indicates that more than half the people who are cyberstalked end up finding out that their stalker was someone that they knew?

Humm....

Richard: That's like Scooby Doo ...it was the janitor all along.  I dont know any janitors. But ...that's weird. But I dont think it will be but that's ...It's much worse if it's someone you know.


Emma: Yes

Richard: Much much worse.

There's something Emma the psychologist said last night has changed things a bit.  It was her talking about the use of that picture escalated things.  She talked about how some trollers go from trolling to entering your real life and that has unsettled me and that has been going round in my head.  And now I'm in a quandary because do I go to the police which would be ... very dramatic... he's have the police turning up at his door.  That's not where I imagined this would go.  Or do I ignore her?  I genuinely dont know what to do now.

Whist I consider whether I should carry on the hunt for my own hater I'm about to come face to face with Damon Evans.  I've been messaging him on twitter and through youtube.  I want to meet him because I believe he may have posted a message on Tom Mullaney's RIP page.

So we're set up in there.  Damon is .. he's only 20.... and in an email exchanged with me he's admitted to some trolling, denied other trolling, has defended elements of it ... so let's just see what he's go to say for himself ...erm...  let's see how this goes.

So after months of hunting online haters I am finally going to confront Damon Evans

Richard:  Damon ... Richard ... thanks for doing this ...come through here we're all set up

I'm going to challenge him about a message that was posted on Tom Mullaney's tribute page.  I also want to know why he got into the murky world of trolling in the first place.

Damon Evans:  It all started it was just on facebook when I was...drunk and it was on a Susan Boyle page and it was just photoshopping pictures and then putting them back on the page and then ...it's still a bit of fun.

Richard: Okay.  And what were you doing with the pictures?

Damon Evans: There was one erm... her singing with a microphone and just photoshopping penises onto it.

Richard: Okay.  So is part of the motivation that you're trying to make people laugh I guess so you ...

Damon Evans: Yeah, some people laugh ..some people get annoyed by it ...it is... addictive sometimes when you get people going crazy and you find it quite funny and you can just keep pushing them and pushing them and pushing them

Richard: People that are upset.

Damon Evans: Yeah it can be slightly addictive but ...

So what about the messages posted on Tom Mullaney's tribute site apparently in Damon's name...?

Richard: Here's some stuff.  Screengrabs of the Tom Mullaney tribute site.  Now that's... your name.

Damon Evans:  That isn't me.  I did ...I think I mentioned in my message my account was cloned.  And I have sent Facebook emails about that.

Richard: Have you?

Damon Evans: I think it was somebody that I'd trolled.  Had cloned my account.    When I trolled I didn't use my real account. 

Richard: What name did you use?

Damon Evans: Erm ...Erm ... I'm not even sure to be honest it was ages ago.

Which is curious because only days before meeting me he did remember the names he used to troll Aston Steele and Martin Crooks.  He made this admission in an online conversation with troll hunter Michael Fitzpatrick. 



This is one of the offensive comments MIchael believes Damon Posted on an RIP site

Ashton Mell Steele: Rip mate, you were a great friend with an even  greater
cock.  Remember when we went up to the park, got height and had anal sex in the trees.
That was amazing :) I can't wait to be with you again buddy, missing you
loads.  RIP Big Mac

using the Ashton Steele identity. 

Richard: Erm ... there's another thing here which this is a conversation which you have written ... here's you admitting that erm Ashton Steele was one of the pseudonyms that you used online...

Damon Evans: Yes

Richard: Erm ...so that was me ...Ashton Steele.  So if we go here this is an RIP site to the teenagers who died when he was 15 or 16 and as Ashton Steel you've written (see above) ...did you write that?

Damon Evans: No.  I have sorted that out...

Richard: Have you?

Damon Evans: Yeah and people know it's not me.

Richard: So you admit that you had a site under that name and then somebody else took that name.

Damon Evans: This is a different name.

As we can see from the screengrab it actually is a different name too. 

Ashton Mell Steel is not Ashton Steel.  Any more than Colon Cross was Colin Coss.
Of course it's little wonder people are using fake IDs if they fear prosecution?


Damon Evans: It was the person that was cloning me.  But I'm not sure who that was.

Richard: You've never seen that?

Damon Evans: No. I haven't seen this.  I've seen this one.  I have emailed Facebook about it and there's not much more that I can do and I have been to the police about it.

Richard:  Why would someone clone a site of yours that's not even under your real name?

Damon Evans: Because I think it was someone that I trolled previously.

Richard: ButI thought you'd only trolled celebrities.

Damon Evans: Erm ... I'm not sure.  I messaged them and they said that I'd trolled them previously.

Richard:  Are you saying absolutely 100%  you have never trolled on an RIP site.

Damon Evans: 100%

A few days after I met him Damon sent an email admitting he had lied in the interview.   He wrote that he had written messages on RIP tribute sites but he still denies posting messages about Tom Mulaney

We then see a couple of screengrabs of Damon's reply one of them though only partially visible seems to put his denials down to the fact the interview was more to his mind an "interrogation".

due to the fact that it was
into an interrogation.

I regret trolling RIP pages that's why I didn't admit it.  It was years ago and I dont believe what I did was a very good thin if I'm honest.  I believe that some of the reactions I got were hilarious but I understand that what I did was wrong.  I stay clear of it now and like I say I haven't done it in years and am now against it.

But the fact that he uses the word hilarious does suggest that he still doesn't fully understand the consequences of this.

Or it could suggest Richard has a bit of a humour bypass ...?

As my three month hunt draws to close I've realised just how vulnerable we all are to people who chose to attack us online.  Even when social network sites have rules, regulations and security rules trolls seem to be able to bypass these measures at will.  I believe it's time for the government to really get their head around this.  And I think there'sa gap between what the social networks find acceptable and what the rest of us think.  Most importantly families like the Chappels and the Mullaneys need more protection.



Finally we end with proof of my theory that grief doesn't make you logical with Tom Mullaney's Dad and Richard Bacon's extremely sinister agenda.

Richard: What are the points in the year which you really find the most difficult where you really find yourself thinking about things?

Tom Mullaney's Dad:
He's missed ...time and time again...
day in ...day out... I miss him dreadfully. 
Something for nothing. 
This what people have got to realise. 
Keep their mouth shut. 
If you've got nothing nice to say then dont say it at all.
The internet's not the place. 
Not the forum to put it. 

Oh well, I suppose if the internet isn't the place then everyone will have to go into live entertainment.  But what about freedom of speech for those who cant afford to go to the Fringe to mouth off knowing that the police dont dare prosecute anyone from the establishment ....yet?  Or dont have time to run clubs.  I guess the government had just learnt what comedy promoters have known from years: if you give ordinary people a voice it sadly very often turns out to be boring, bigoted or just not entertaining.

If like Tom you find yourself a victim of cyberbullying the advice from the experts is dont keep it to yourself.


Mentor: My advice to someone being bullied is dont retaliate just block them or just report them straight away and go to your teachers or go to someone who's close to you.

And if you find yourself a victim of trolling dont get into an argument with them

Emma: There's a phrase in computer language.  Dont feel the trolls.  Erm .. dont give them anything because if you respond.  Especially if you respond with you know real observable emotion and upset you are giving them more material with which to play and discuss and throw about.

Richard: That's the reaction they want.

As for my own hater.  Having taken advice I've been told the nature and peristance of his abuse goes beyond what is considered acceptable.  Which means it's time to leave the hunting to others.

Good idea.

So the advice I've been given by two experts is to go to the police and they say that there is a case there and that I should do it.  It's not the personal criticism that's fine you kind of expect that ...,it's the stuff to my family... it's the violent imagery ...it's the mentioning my baby that kind of thing and ...I didn't want to go to the police it just seems very dramatic but its what they've both said very clearly and so that is what I'm going to do and hopefully that will put an end to it.

I may not have learned the identity of my hater but I have found out just how easy it is for today's nasty bullies to hide behind a keyboard.  If you find yourself under attack keep the evidence you may need it if you have to go to the authorities.

And one thing's for sure - the authorities want us to know that now EVERYONE's on the internet they're going to try and put that genie back in the bottle ...or die trying?



He pressed his fingers against his eyelids again. He had written it down at last, but it made no difference. The therapy had not worked. The urge to shout filthy words at the top of his voice was as strong as ever.

Photo Credits.
Belshazzar's Feast by Rembrandt (National Gallery)
An Experiment on a Bird in an Air Pump' by Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768 (National Gallery)
Bernard Manning by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Ianmacm
Richard Bacon http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/49949971/
Chris Moyles by Rabbro
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington by Sir Thomas Lawrence
Rowan Atkinson. Photo was taken at the UCI Cinema in Huerth, Germany by Gerhard Heeke
Sir Edward Coke attributed to Thomas Athow, after Unknown artist, after Cornelius Johnson
Whitby harbour from new Quay by Graham Proud
Ryan Giggs by Ray Booysen
Maslows Hierarchy of Needs by Factoryjoe
Nicola Roberts by Anthony Blakemore
Terry Wogan by Keith Laverack
Paul Daniels picture stolen from his website in honour of the Debbie McGee modelagency
Portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother painted by Richard Stone in 1986.
Luis Suarez by Jimmy Baikovicius
Statler and
Waldorf by Ford Buchanan
Pooh and Co by Spictacular
Dorothy Parker by Unknown
SiSir Ranulph prior to his presentation at Dept of Engineering, Cambridge University by B Milnes
Mark Zuckerberg by Guillaume Paumier / Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-3.0
Legologand Genie in bottle by Jerry Daykin from Cambridge, United Kingdom

with additional material by
Agathar Christie and George Orwell



  The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
 Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
 Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
 Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.



Postcript

Since this article was written ...




Christopher McGee, 45, the train guard was found guilty and sentanced to 5 years imprisonment for the manslaughter of Georgia Varley.  Her mother described her as a lovely polite, respectful young lady.  It seem she had been "unsteady on her feet all night, especially as she was wearing four inch high heels and had fallen over several times on the way to the station and on the train" and was high on the drug MCat (mephedrone) and her friends had tried to send her home earlier in the evening.  CCTV footage showed she was leaning on the train when it pulled out the station... Still her mother says she did nothing more than what many young girls her age do - get drugged up and drunk under age get on and off a train a lot and be completely drunk and disorderly...?  Anyway ...

As it happens we did put in an official complaint to the BBC but it was rejected as out of time. 
However, following a repeat of the program we put it in again.  Our complaint read:

Complained before but "out of time" - now you've repeated it complaining again

1) Richard covers the case of Tom Mullaney stating boy took his life after "one night of cyber bullying". However, the Inquest into the death of Tom showed that he had autistic problems, was suffering from depression and had been "excluded" from School on the day of his suicide and had "behavioral issues". Blaming suicide entirely on Facebook is misleading.

2) Richard touches on the Georgia Varley case and says her page was deluged with negative comments. This may be true but Richard fails to mention that the Daily Mail plugged the Varley RIP page (days after their MacBryde trial coverage) with an actual screengrab. It is not mentioned that during the Natasha MacBryde suicide inquest it was stated that she was upset at her parents divorce - her death is solely, entirely and unfairly dumped completely on social networks.

3) Richard covers the Horiato Chapple case. But he fails to mention that like Georgia Varley's parents they are involved in legal cases which makes their RIP pages political.

4) Richard makes many statements not backed up by research. Like that there is an "explosion in online hate" in recent years without showing empirical evidence for this.

5) Michael Fitzpatrick is attacks "anonymous haters" literally from beind a mask.

6) No analysis of the Free speech implications.

7) Colom Coss was harassed

They replied

Dear Mr Miller

Thank you for your email about The Antisocial Network.

I discussed your concerns with the production team who made this programme for the BBC and I’d like to try and address each of your points in turn.

1) It is believed by some, most notably Tom’s parents, that the bullying messages pushed Tom to the edge and had he not received those messages at a time when he was feeling vulnerable he would not have killed himself. Regardless of the other things going on in Tom’s life the fact that his computer was left open on the bullying messages he had received speaks volumes. Tom’s brother makes the point that the people did not know what was going on in Tom’s personal life when they posted those messages, but he also believes it was the messages that pushed him over the edge.

Time considerations meant that we couldn’t go into any greater detail about the case but Tom was not the only pupil to have been excluded – everyone involved in the incident had been excluded until it had been fully investigated. It is true it was this incident which formed the basis of the cyber bullying but it seems that it was the online comments about the incident – and the threats to Tom – which made him take his life rather than just the incident itself.


2) On the Georgia Varley case The Daily Mail did not encourage Trolls to exercise their “freedom of speech” and leave messages that would obviously be devastating for the family to read. The Daily Mail reported on the RIP page, they did not ‘plug’ it as a site to leave hurtful messages.
With regard to Natasha McBryde, the tragic reasons for her taking her life bear no relevance to the hurtful messages and jokes that were posted by so called internet ” trolls” after she died. The main focus of our programme was why people are using this medium and its impact, so there wasn’t the time to go into detail.


3) It is not clear what is meant by the phrase ‘making the pages political’. Some parents are trying to take legal action against those who deface their children’s RIP websites, which is understandable.

4) There is clear evidence that there has been an explosion in the number of cases of trolling and cyber bullying in terms of the numbers of complaints made to the police and the number of convictions.  In terms of the mainstream media, many more complaints are being reported worldwide about this phenomenon of trolling.  Five years ago there were hardly any reports about RIP and other forms of trolling. 
This is also the view of anti-bullying charities such as Beatbullying’s research.  One charity has reported an 77% increase in cyber bullying from 2009 -2011, another, Beatbullying has collated statistics indicating that there is now a very strong likelihood of school children being cyber bullied “1 in 3 people aged between 11 to 17 experience cyber bullying, with girls being three times more likely.” 


5) Michael wished to remain anonymous due to fears for his own – and his family’s – personal safety, should he reveal his true identity.  The evidence that he gave to us throughout the course of the programme was overwhelming and had previously helped secure two criminal convictions of trolls. All evidence was carefully analysed by the production team.

6) The issue of freedom of speech was touched upon by Richard when he discussed the arguments given by Facebook for allowing messages to be published. However the focus of the programme was cyber bullying, specifically trolling, and a search for why people troll.

7) Colom Coss has previously been convicted of posting messages so vile, we were not able to quote them on the programme.  The production team was given evidence that despite his previous conviction, Mr Coss had once again started posting online hate messages.  These allegations were put to Mr Coss in writing and an interview was offered. Mr Coss refused to comment on the allegations and in such circumstances where the public interest in a story is deemed suffice our guidelines allow an individual to be doorstepped.  As you will have noticed, Colm declined to talk and whilst Richard did try and persuade him to comment he did so in a polite manner and when it was clear Colm was not willing to cooperate they parted amicably.

I hope this address your concerns and explains the purpose and focus of the programme. Thank you again for your comments and suggestions which have been passed on to and discussed with the production team.

Yours sincerely,
Paul Kettle
BBC Audience Services

You will notice that their reply has rather more words in than my original complaint.  This is because complaints ar extremely space limited in the online submission form.  As they had more space to make their points than I did and I wasn't sure all their answers made sense I replied:

1) I still feel the Tom Mullaney case was presented in a way that was misleading. Significant data such as the fight at the school and the exclusion was concealed from the viewer by accident or design? Tom left no suicide note and his parents were out - because they believe things does not make them right.

2) The Daily Mail reproduced a large screengrab of Georgia Varley's Facebook page in their paper which must have increased traffic. I think covering so many cases in so little detail is bound to lead to a lack of perspective.

3) If the parents are seeking changes in the law as Tom Mullaney's are their motives are overtly political. I would say campaigning for people to be convicted of criminal offenses is also a political act. Of course it is everyone's right to campaign but these campaigns are still political and so opposing views should be represented?

4) There may be an increase in online bullying but has it been measured against the statistics of the number of people online? Why was the provinance of the data not put forth? Perhaps because Beatbullying is a political lobbying organisation? What they campaign for may be desirable but opposing views should also be represented?

5) Too ludicrous

6) "The issue of freedom of speech was touched upon ..." It is the briefness of that touch that led me to believe bias.

7) I think Coss was simply a substituted when Richard's own stalker could not be tracked down.

To which they replied:

Dear Mr Miller

Thank you for your contacting us again regarding The Anti-Social Network. I dissed your concerns with the production team. Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding.

In a programme looking at the issue of cyber-bullying it was entirely appropriate to examine its role in Tom Mullaney's death. As you may know, at the inquest the coroner said that the online threats had "played a part" and the Detective Chief Inspector of West Midlands Police's public protection unit is quoted as saying that "Tom had been on Facebook and became engaged in a series of conversations with another youth. From what I have seen, they were always one-way traffic. The threats were from another party to Tom." The individual responsible for the threats was cautioned under the Malicious Communications Act.

In any case, it simply isn't accurate to suggest that the programme contains no allusion to the other things going on in Tom's life which may also have contributed in some way to his death. Richard quite clearly states that "six or seven kids had posted threatening messages about a fight Tom had been involved in that day at school". Later in the programme he says, in reference to Tom, "often the bullies just don't know how vulnerable their victims are" which is followed by Tom's brother, who says "I don't think they understand what they've said pushed my brother over the top, because they don't know what was going on in his personal life."


We would also point out that the programme does not examine the cases of Georgia Varley or Natasha MacBryde. It contains fleeting shots of newspaper and online coverage of the fact that tribute pages to Georgia Varley had been targeted by trolls - we cannot see how the limited 'coverage' of this story constitutes bias.

On the broader question of balance; the programme includes many stories of the extreme hurt caused to individuals, their friends and families as a result of abusive messages being posted online. It also includes personal comment from Richard as someone who has been a victim of trolling. However, it also hears from two individuals who have admitted to, or who have been convicted of, trolling and they were given ample opportunity to put their points of view across. Likewise, Facebook was given the opportunity to respond to the allegation that they had done nothing to remove some comments and images that Horatio Chapple's family found upsetting: "[Facebook] say they remove offensive comments within 24 hours of them being reported. But sometimes distasteful images and comments, including [the 'Eton mess' image], do not violate their rules, as they're trying to strike a balance between censorship and freedom of expression."


With the above paragraph in mind, it should be noted that although the BBC's Editorial Guidelines outline our commitment to reflecting a breadth and diversity of opinion, they also state that impartiality does not necessarily require the range of perspectives or opinions to be covered in equal proportions either across our output as a whole or within a single programme. The guidelines talk about "due weight" which, for example, means that minority views should not necessarily be given equal weight to the prevailing consensus.

I hope this response addresses your concerns but should you wish to escalate your complaint to the next stage of the BBC’s complaints process it is open for you to contact the BBC's Editorial Complaints Unit to appeal for an independent investigation. You can write to them (within 20 working days) at the following address:

Yours sincerely,
Paul Kettle
BBC Audience Services

So there you are.  Seems the BBC are allowed to be biased so long as they truly believe the views on this page only belong to a tiny minority of people.  Maybe they do?  If they don't maybe YOU should do something about it...?  Hopefully we are not a lone insane voice here at the Pear.  You may think all you can do is write a letter but remember ... Your letter is only the start of it.  One letter and now you’re a part of it.

Ah, well, ... I suppose we could pursue this all the way to the BBC Trust board but then again .....it probably would be a waste of time and licence payer's money to write to a governing body that replaced a sensible one with something that is now supposed to also be a regulator as well which is too confusing for me ...why was it again that the Board of Governers was replaced with a trust? Anyway ...and er ... seriously...



... we do understand that the BBC Trust
have a lot of other more pressing problems at the moment.


Post Post Script

The government seem to have little intention of repealing Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003.  However, in an attempt to avoid a repetition of the Robin Hood Airport case they have published new prosecution guidelines and initiated a new consultation.  This reads:

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today released a set of interim guidelines outlining regulations for communications sent via social media, such as Twitter.

 
Mr Starmer (head of the CPS) said:

"These interim guidelines are intended to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to uphold the criminal law.  They make a clear distinction between communications which amount to credible threats of violence, a targeted campaign of harassment against an individual or which breach court orders on the one hand, and other communications sent by social media, e.g. those that are grossly offensive, on the other.  The first group will be prosecuted robustly whereas the second group will only be prosecuted if they cross a high threshold; a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest if the communication is swiftly removed, blocked, not intended for a wide audience or not obviously beyond what could conceivably be tolerable or acceptable in a diverse society which upholds and respects freedom of expression.  The interim guidelines thus protect the individual from threats or targeted harassment while protecting the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, or banter or humour, even if distasteful to some and painful to those subjected to it."

ACPO lead on communications Chief Constable Andy Trotter said:

"This interim guidance sets out clear advice to police forces in England and Wales on handling complaints from the public relating to social media. It takes a common sense approach and will help support consistency from prosecutors and police. We welcome the opportunity for early consultation to take place between CPS and police before any action is taken in these cases."

Chief Executive of Victim Support Javed Khan said:

"Victims tell us that sustained and vindictive targeting on social media can leave long lasting emotional and psychological scars, so we warmly welcome clarification on how prosecutors will deal with online threats or harassment.  The distinction between communications which constitute a credible threat and those which may merely cause offence is sorely needed.  In particular we welcome the guideline which makes a prosecution more likely if a victim is specifically targeted and this has a significant impact on them.  We will watch how the interim guidelines are used with interest and will respond to them in detail during the consultation period."

The interim guidelines do not change the law, but set out the approach prosecutors should follow when considering cases relating to communications sent via social media. The guidelines come into immediate effect, and are subject to a three-month public consultation which starts today.

Mr Starmer added:

"We want the interim guidelines to be as fully informed as possible, which is why we held a series of roundtable discussions and meetings with Twitter, Facebook, Liberty and other stakeholders, police and regulators, victim groups, academics, journalists and bloggers, lawyers and sports organisations ahead of drafting them. I would now encourage everyone with an interest in this matter to give us their views by responding to the public consultation."



Introduction

1. These guidelines set out the approach that prosecutors should take when making decisions in relation to cases  where it is alleged that criminal offences have been committed by the sending of a communication via social media. The guidelines are designed to give clear advice to prosecutors who have been asked either for a charging decision or for early advice to the police, as well as in reviewing those cases which have been charged by the police. Adherence to these guidelines will ensure that there is a consistency of approach across the CPS.

2. The guidelines cover the offences  that are likely to be most commonly committed by the sending of communications via social media. These guidelines equally apply to the resending (or retweeting) of communications and whenever they refer to the sending of a communication, the guidelines should also be read as applying to the resending of a communication. However, for the reasons set out below, the context in which any communication is sent will be highly material.   

3. These guidelines are  primarily concerned with offences that may be committed by reason of the nature or content of a communication sent via social media. Where social media is simply used to facilitate some other substantive offence, prosecutors  should proceed under the substantive offence in question.

4. These guidelines are interim guidelines and they have immediate effect. At the end of the public consultation period, they will be reviewed in light of the responses received. Thereafter final guidelines will be published.

General Principles

5. Prosecutors may only start a prosecution if a case satisfies the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. This test has two stages: the first is the requirement of evidential sufficiency and the second involves consideration of the public interest.

6. As far as the evidential stage is concerned, a prosecutor must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction. This means that an objective, impartial and reasonable jury (or bench of magistrates or judge sitting alone), properly directed and acting in accordance with the law, is more likely than not to convict.  It is an objective test based upon the prosecutor’s assessment of the evidence (including any information that he or she has about the defence).

7. A case which does not pass the  evidential stage must  not  proceed,  no matter how serious or sensitive it may be.

8. It has never been the rule that a prosecution will automatically take place once the evidential stage is satisfied. In every case where there is sufficient evidence to justify a prosecution, prosecutors must go on to consider whether a prosecution is required in the public interest.

9. Every case must be considered on its own individual facts and merits. No prospective immunity from criminal  prosecution can eve  be given and nothing in these guidelines should be read as suggesting otherwise.

10. In the majority of cases, prosecutors should only decide whether to prosecute after the investigation has been completed. However, there will be cases occasionally where it is  clear, prior to the collection and consideration of all the likely evidence, that the public interest does not require a prosecution. In these cases, prosecutors may decide that the case should not proceed further.

11. Cases involving the sending of communications via social media are likely to benefit from early consultation between police and prosecutors, and the police are encouraged to contact the CPS at an early stage of the investigation.

Initial assessment

12. Communications sent via social  media are capable of  amounting  to criminal offences and prosecutors should make an initial assessment of the content of the communication and the course of conduct in question so as to distinguish between:

(1) Communications which may constitute credible threats of violence to the person or damage to property.

(2) Communications which specifically target an individual or individuals and which may constitute harassment or stalking within the meaning of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 or which may constitute other offences, such as blackmail.  

(3) Communications which may amount to a breach of a court order . This can include offences under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 or section 5 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992. All such cases should be referred to the Attorney General, and via the Principal Legal Advisor’s team where necessary.

(4) Communications which do not fall into any of the categories above and fall to be considered separately (see below): i.e. those which may be considered  grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false.

13. As a general approach, cases falling within paragraphs 12 (1), (2) or (3) should be prosecuted robustly where they satisfy the test set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors. Whereas cases which fall within paragraph 12(4) will be subject to a high threshold and in many cases a prosecution is unlikely to be in the public interest. 

14. Having identified which of the  categories set out in paragraph 12 the communication and the course of conduct in  question falls into, prosecutors should follow the approach set out under the relevant heading below.

           
(1) Credible threats

15. Communications which may constitute credible threats of violence to the person may fall to be considered under section 16 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 if the threat is a threat to kill within the meaning of that provision.

16. Other credible threats of violence to the person may fall to be considered under section 4 of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 if they amount to a course of conduct within  the meaning of that  provision  and there is sufficient evidence to establish the necessary state of knowledge.

17. Credible threats of violence to the person or damage to property may also fall to be considered under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 which prohibits the sending of messages of a “menacing character” by means of a public telecommunications network. However, before proceeding with a prosecution under section 127, prosecutors should heed 5 the words of the Lord Chief Justice in  Chambers v DPP  [2012]  EWH2 2157 (Admin) where he said:

“… a message which does not create fear or apprehension in those to whom it is communicated, or may reasonably be expected to see it, falls outside [section 127(i)(a)], for the simple reason that the message lacks menace.” (Paragraph 30) As a general rule, threats which are not credible should not be prosecuted, unless they form part of a campaign of harassment specifically targeting an individual within the  meaning of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

18. Where there is evidence of discrimination, prosecutors should pay particular regard to the provisions  of section 28-32  of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and section 145 of  the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (increase in sentences for racial  and religious aggravation) and section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act  2003 (increase in sentences for aggravation related to disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity).

(2) Communications targeting specific individuals

19. If communications sent via social media target a specific individual or individuals, they will fall to be  considered under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 where they amount to a course of conduct within the meaning of section 7 of that Act. In such cases, prosecutors should follow the CPS Legal Guidance on Stalking and Harassment.

20. Where communications target a specific individual  and the offence of blackmail is made out, prosecutors should seek to prosecute the substantive offence.

21. Again, where there is evidence of discrimination, prosecutors should pay particular regard to the provisions  of section 28-32  of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and section 145 of  the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (increase in sentences for racial  and religious aggravation) and section 146 of the Criminal Justice Act  2003 (increase in sentences for aggravation related to disability, sexual orientation or transgender identity).

(3) Breach of court orders

22. Court orders can apply to those communicating via social media in the same way as they apply to others. Accordingly, any communication via social media that may breach a court order falls to be considered under the relevant legislation, including the Contempt of Court Act 1981 and section 5 of the Sexual Offences (Amendment)