Anorak | The media-stoked moral panic over suicides and Twitter hate

The media-stoked moral panic over suicides and Twitter hate

by | 7th, August 2013

EMBARGOED UNTIL 0001 FRIDAY 22 FEBRUARY. Charity vInspired launches a ‘Trolls Under The Bridge’ installation to highlight the negative effects that internet trolling has on people, at the IMAX Underpass, Waterloo, London. The writing is genuine quotes from the internet.

TROLLING is big news. The latest story is that young people using the site are dying. This follows news that women are being subjected to vile abuse on Twitter. But only women to whom the mass media is sympathetic are featured as victims . And that is odd.

The Daily Mail delivers the case for the prosecution in bullet points.

When children die rational debate is not easy to maintain. The loss of a child is horrendous.

The Mail  says:

Hannah Smith hanged herself on Friday after anonymous trolls urged her to ‘drink bleach’, ‘get cancer’ and ‘go die’, and her father Dave Smith has now begged the Prime Minister to have the social network banned.

Last autumn two Irish schoolgirls Ciara Pugsley, 15, from Leitrim, and Erin Gallagher, 13, from Donegal took their own lives after being subjected to anonymous bullying on the site.
Her father Jonathan said today: ‘It’s just awful. I know first-hand exactly what they’re going through.’

Erin Gallagher had warned users who had sent her abuse that she would kill herself days before her death. Her sister Shannon Gallagher, 15, was found dead eight weeks later in another suicide.

In April schoolboy Josh Unsworth, 15, was found hanged in his parents’ garden in Lancashire and had complained of cyber-bullying on the notorious social networking site.
He had endured months of abusive messages on his profile, including posts like: ‘You’re a ‘f****** n*****d. Honestly no one cares for you even your parents don’t want you, there (sic) gunna put you in care’.

Is there a clear link between the abuse and the deaths? Is it simple cause and effect? They all used the website but we don’t know what else was being said and going on in other parts of their lives. All we know for certain is that people say stupid and horrible things on the web and teenagers can be thoughtless and irrational. This from the Mail in 2012:

Russian teen leaps from apartment block after seeing his favourite Japanese cartoon character die on television

Was the death of a cartoon character what rove him to it? We don’t know for sure. His father said: “I always told him he spent too much time watching the TV – he didn’t know what was reality and what was fiction anymore.”

The Mail then explained:

Psychiatrists and health experts in Russia blame alcohol abuse, domestic violence, rigid rules and high expectations from parents.

But not trolls.



The Mail was, of course, on the receiving end of claims that its comments on a transexual called Lucy Meadows led to her death. But there was no clear link indeed any link between what Richard Littlejohn wrote and the death of Lucy Meadows .

Did the Mail’s Jan Moir make gays feel unnatural “?

As for being called fat leading to suicide, the Mail reported on One Changtelle Houghton:
chantelle houghton troll

Mail readers responded. All these comments were approved by the Mail’s moderators:


chantelle houghton troll 1


And the Mail’s troller Samantha  Brick had a view-to-deadline on Mary Beard:

The plain truth is that Ms Beard is too ugly for TV.

In today’s Mail, we read of a so-called troll:

Hannah, 14, was taunted on over her weight, the death of an uncle and an apparent propensity to self-harm.  Under the header R.I.P. Hannah Smith, American Toby Swaggins Tarrant said: ‘Its (sic) her own fault for taking her own life. its (sic) cowardice. and instead of opening our eyes to the dead we should open our ears to the living’.

After loved-ones confronted him and called him ‘sick’ he said: ‘Oh for f**** sake bullying on the internet is soo f****** easy to avoid just turn off your f****** computer!’.

That makes him vile.

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Posted: 7th, August 2013 | In: Key Posts, News, Technology Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink