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Opinion| Let's give internet trolls the attention they are craving



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I'm feeling generous - it's time to give the trolls the attention they lacked as children.

How I wish they'd stayed under a bridge in the storybooks, terrorizing goats. Now they terrorise people online instead.

I know they say you shouldn't have favourites but I do. The guy wearing a gas mask in his profile picture with about four Facebook friends, the woman who talks of the "media agenda". Mate. Put down the tinfoil, we're too tired to have an agenda.

Lego trolls Credit: Grianghraf on Unsplash (57283181)
Lego trolls Credit: Grianghraf on Unsplash (57283181)

Their zealous insults, and concrete belief systems almost endear them to me. Much like a one legged cat at a shelter, one can't help but sympathise with the impaired.

The conceited smugness of the semi-educated troll as he says yet again, in a typically self-aggrandizing fashion, that your journalism is "sloppy", makes you roll your eyes and ask yourself what the point is.

Reporters can't write a story about a new bakery opening without someone throwing proverbial eggs at it.

My editor often says "don't feed the trolls" and I suppose by writing about them, it like giving them an all you can eat buffet for free. Get your knives and forks out.

I never imagined that as a young woman who wanted to highlight social issues and tell people's truth that I would be on the receiving end of scathing abuse, and ignorant assumptions about my character from total strangers.

It's not just the media who suffer at the hands of the internet's righteous snake pit. Celebrities, bloggers and even small businesses are targeted.

Some say it's part of the job, and to some extent it is, but imagine you were sitting at your desk, with 100 horrible strangers pressed up against the windows hurling insults at you? That's what trolling feels like. Most of the time you can ignore it, some days you can't. It doesn't matter if a family member has died, you've got marital issues or suffering from poor mental health. The troll wagon is an insatiable machine.

I can't help but notice that most professionals are protected from abuse. If you are rude to a waiter, a nurse or a customer service advisor - you would be asked to leave the premises or refused service. That doesn't happen in journalism, no matter how much you abuse us, we continue to provide news.

I've had vitriol from someone after I've spent two hours writing about their small business from information they gave me and checked over. Their words to me before publication were "love it!" the next thing I knew they were acting mightily affronted that I'd pretty much advertised their business for free, a confusing conundrum to say the least.

Turns out their article was subject to a wave of fire and brimstone from troll HQ. The person couldn't handle the slating they got on their post, and decided to use me as a scapegoat. That was two hours of hard work down the drain, and no, we don't get paid extra or for views.

I've even had someone report me to IPSO before, because she thought I was using the paper as a "vehicle for my Islamist agenda".

I've been called ugly, a council supporter, conversely have also been told I hate the council - the list goes on. My colleagues receive much of the same, as do many of us across the industry.

Being human (I know, hard to believe)journalists sometimes make mistakes, whether it's a typo or incorrect information. We are obliged by the law to amend stories and write them in good faith.

Reporters are trained in laws designed to protect people and their human rights. We are trained to ask organisations questions the public wants answered.

Larry the Facebook genius is never held accountable, his meme about radioactive chicken will stay in the Twitter-sphere forever, shared as if it were fact.

We don't exist to cater to the the bristling, increasingly offended social media bubble, we are here to tell you about events. Yes, even if those events fall into the category of the oft used"slow news day" trope.

For instance I recently wrote a story about the discovery of a brothel in Little Fransham. The article contained information about an arrest that took place last year regarding modern slavery charges in connection with the establishment.

We captioned it "grim news" on our Facebook page.

One troll, John Bailey, said on the article: "You need to get out a bit if you think that's grim news, bloke rents a house out to a hooker, happens in every town in the country several times every other day."

He also said: "Brothels are all over the place hardly groundbreaking news, if husbands treated the husbands better in the bedroom there would be no need for them."

I'm sorry mate did you expect us to uncover a nest of three-eyed aliens every other day? Apologies if the real life occurrences of modern slavery and prostitution aren't exciting enough for you. We will endeavour to pick out more exciting police press releases in the future.

Thank you for telling us there are so many brothels across the country, we didn't realise that either! Can we also point out that views on women also seem really progressive, we wish more men were like you.

Shock horror, journalists will publish things you don't like, don't agree with and also things that offend you. As well as things that bore you. Unlike the social media algorithms designed to entertain you like a form of digital heroin, our business models aren't that dynamic, as our focus is you guessed it - news.

If we didn't continue to publish things you don't like, I guess we'd be living in the age of dystopian censorship and not that of the free press.

Facebook does a wonderful job of allowing the public to judge and censor themselves. Social media users now refrain from posting their true views online because they are concerned about hate speech and trolling. For every positive article written there will be hundereds of sour, judgmental little sound bites ripping it to shreds. Disagreement is not the issue, but this nauseating faux moralism has to stop. Whataboutism has to stop. And for the love of god, please stop telling us we have an agenda. Or we might have to start tapping your phone.



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