Debate Magazine

The Anti-Social Network

Posted on the 28 June 2012 by Mikeb302000

BBC Three ran a show back in April about Radio 5 presenter Richard Bacon called The Anti-Social Network. He saw a website two years before the programme called "Richard Bacon is a [expletive]" which was run by someone who hated not only Bacon's Show, but also Bacon personally.
Aside from a running commentary on what he disliked about each day's programme, he would fantasise about Bacon's death, daydream about him dying in a plane crash and express his hope that Bacon's body would be mangled in a car wreck. As the months wore on, he became utterly obsessed. He started posting links full of abuse to Bacon's wife, mother and work colleagues. Bacon's newborn son even garnered a few mentions.
Bacon delved deeper into the phenomenon and found out that the level of vitriol he was receiving wes mild. Imagine you're the parent of a child who has died in tragic circumstances and you're reading a tribute site dedicated to their memory. Underneath the comments from friends and acquaintances, you stumble upon graphic, violent and sexual abuse from people writing under pretend names. People who their deceased child never even knew.
I would like you to take part in an experiment. Go to any news website that allows readers to post their own thoughts. Choose the most innocuous celebrity story you can find, and read people's comments beneath. There is something about the alchemy of a keyboard and a public platform that taps into a side of human nature that you rarely, if ever, encounter in real-life conversation.
People need to be educated on how to deal with these attention seekers (because that is all they are), the phrase "don't feed the troll" is there for a reason. Ignore them, once they start thinking that they are getting under your skin by responding, it gives them an even bigger sense of accomplishment. I'm willing to bet most of them are deeply lonely and unfulfilled--so keep that in mind when you come across one. 
The really important question about this phenomenon is "Where does freedom of expression cross over into harassment? "
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