The UK Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, has promised to introduce some tough sounding measures to tackle internet trolling. This has been prompted in part by attacks on the McCann family (said troll appears to have committed suicide) and threats to one Chloe Madeley. I’ve no idea who she is, but her mother appears to have courted controversy by suggesting that a Ched Evans, sentenced to five years for rape, had somehow had an unfair time of things. I can’t comment, since I don’t really who he is either. I have to say the way I see it is that a five year stretch for ruining a woman’s life is a bit lenient, but Ms Madeley’s mother is entitled to her opinion. Her daughter, however, does not deserve to be threatened because of a difference of opinion.
Mr Grayling is now getting tough. Currently trolls are dealt with in magistrate’s court, and the maximum time in clink is 6 months. The idea is for the crime to be elevated in importance, subject to crown court jurisdiction, and carry a 24 month sentence. Sounds good, no? What a waste of time. It just won’t work.
I’ll tell you how I know this. Not ten minutes ago, I used a public access computer to get online. I opened an email address with a fictitious name. I then opened a Facebook account using this false email address. I gave a fictitious name, a fictitious residential address, a false telephone number. All against FB’s strict rules, but who’s to know? I now have an untraceable account, which I have supplemented with a wholly imaginary Twitter account. I can troll to my heart’s content, and never get found. Bear in mind I’m an amateur here. I’m not talking about setting up a VPN, or using proxy servers. I’m untraceable on major social networks.
I’m not condoning trolls. I’ve been trolled, I’ve had death threats, and it’s unpleasant. But no amount of legislation is going to alter the fact that the nutters will get through. This move is a typical Cameron-driven PR exercise, designed with one purpose, and one purpose only. To let the Tories exploit stupidity, to make them look good in the run up to the next election. It’s cynical, exploitative, ineffective, and unenforceable.