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cyber-bullying WWW.GARYNEILL.COM


trolls?


Sunday Times columnist, Katie Glass, who even got abuse


for writing about not having a TV, believes harassers can sometimes come across as trolls when they might “a bit inarticulately” be trying to make a point. Re-tweeting has often led to interesting discussions, she says. “I would rather re-tweet it and not feel ashamed, then other


people defend you and you don’t feel so alone,” she says. “People on Twitter send things without thinking and when you make it visible they feel ashamed. By humanising the interaction online, highlighting it or engaging with them you take the sting out and often end up with people apologising because they’re human, drunk or angry. The guy who called me a c***, ended up saying sorry and asked me out for a drink, weirdly.”


G


razia columnist, Polly Vernon, says she feels more protected as a freelance, writing for Grazia and The Times (which are partly paid for) than she did as staff on The Observer five years ago where she was told to “grow a


thicker skin”. But she now gets bullying of a different kind from what she


calls ‘middle class lady trolls’. “It’s a fantasy to think a female oriented social networking


platform would eliminate these problems,” she says. “You get a different kind of grief, but anyone who went to secondary school will recognise it. It’s your worst days at school x 100.” “It isn’t trolling, but it adds up to the same thing, to quieten


you down, ultimately even shut you up. It’s become received form in comment sections and on Twitter, the cheap laughs, the cruelty-enabling of that sort of discourse. That’s what goes viral. I can see newspapers actively encouraging their writers to spark that level of debate, because that’s what gets traction on their pages, that’s what makes sites sticky.” She adds: “This is one of the biggest problems facing


journalists. It really is. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s the most depressing.” So what can be done? In January 2014, the NUJ won a landmark case when football supporter, David Limond, was sentenced to six months in prison and a three year non harassment order for threatening reporter, Angela Haggerty, in Glasgow. The intimidation followed an article she wrote about


the financial collapse of Rangers FC. Limond described her appearance and instructed his followers to ‘hit her with everything you’ve got’.


Despite the action, Angela is still getting abuse, three and


a half years on. Within days of being hired by the Sunday Herald, in November, a petition appeared on change.org, calling her ‘a vile bigot’ and to be removed from the job. In January, Angela was ‘sacked’ after tweeting support for


Glasgow Herald sports journalist, Graham Spiers, who was also targeted by abuse online after questioning the ‘mettle’ of the Rangers board to tackle offensive chanting. The NUJ condemned the actions of the newspaper group. For this reason, Angela has gone as public as possible exposing trolls so people, including employers can see she is a victim.


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