Anorak News | Nothing Changes: The Madeleine McCann Story Has Always Been Hijacked By Media Trolls

Nothing Changes: The Madeleine McCann Story Has Always Been Hijacked By Media Trolls

by | 2nd, October 2014

maddy sleepyface


MADELEINE McCann is back in the news. Sky News is with “TROLLS” who have abused the missing child’s parents online. There is not a shred of proof Kate and Gerry McCann were involved in their daughter’s vanishing. But people say nasty things online.

Some ‘trolls’ used to say them in the Press. The McCanns were libeled. They won damages.

The media was unable to stick to the most basic facts. This was single thread story being spun. A child had gone missing. That was the only fact.


Today, Sky introduces us to a woman who tweetes by the name “Sleepy Face”. Cameras are outside her home. The voiceover alleges she says vile things “from the heart of this peaceful village”, as if location matters. Sleepyface, a presentable middle-aged woman, tells Sky she hopes she has broken no laws.

Sky reports:

The Metropolitan Police is investigating a catalogue of vile internet abuse targeting the family of Madeleine McCann including death threats, Sky News can reveal. Officers are in talks with the Crown Prosecution Service after being handed a dossier of more than 80 pages of Tweets, Facebook posts and messages on online forums aimed at Kate and Gerry McCann.

Over the past few years hundreds of shocking messages have been posted by ‘trolls’ who believe – despite no evidence – that the McCanns had some involvement in the disappearance of their daughter in Portugal in 2007.

These include suggestions that the McCanns should be tortured and killed and calls for them to “burn in hell”.

Unpleasant stuff.

One troll – who uses the Twitter identity “Sweepyface” and has posted dozens of anti-McCann messages using the #mccann hashtag – was confronted by Sky News. When asked about her use of social media to attack the couple, she replied: “I’m entitled to.”

Who compiled the dossier?

The dossier – compiled by members of the public alarmed at the online treatment of the McCanns and shown to Sky News – calls on police and MPs to act to crack down on such abuse.

So will the police act? Can they afford not to?

The Met wrote to the campaigners: “In consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service and the McCann family the material will now be assessed and decisions made as to what further action if any should be undertaken.”

Among the messages identified in the dossier is an exchange on a message board which reads: “These 2 should burn in hell”; “I will supply the petrol”; “I’ll supply the lighter – happily”.

That sounds threatening.

Other posts include: “We need some numbers for some assassins on taps”, “I hope that the McCanns are living in total misery” and “I want to see them smashed up the back of a bus or trampled by horses”.

In one of her tweets “Sweepyface” called for the McCanns to suffer “for the rest of their miserable lives”.

These tweeters are labelled trolls. Sky says they have been “unmasked”.

Let’s hear from the anti-troll campaigners?

The campaigner spearheading the appeal – who has asked to remain anonymous – told Sky News: “We’re very worried that it’s only going to take somebody to act out of some of these discussions, some of the threats that have been made, and we couldn’t live with ourselves if that happened and we had done nothing.”

An expert is called up:

Author Anthony Summers, whose book Looking for Madeleine was published last month, said: “There is a campaign of hatred against the parents. It is venomous and vitriolic, most of it done by cowards. We are taken aback by the extent of the sheer evil behind it all.”

Evil? It’s nasty. It’s rude. But if we call it evil what word do we use to describe people who abduct and rape children?

What this story really shows is that nothing has changed.

In June 2008, we wrote:

How The Madeleine McCann Story Was Hijacked By Web Trolls

One of the most bizarre and troubling aspects of of the Madeleine McCann story has been the way the coverage of the story has itself become the story.

Anorak is not a site which has ever been (or ever will be) dedicated to the alleged crimes of abduction and subsequent claim and counter-claim of deeper, darker deeds involving in turn a resident Englishman in the Portuguese holiday complex where the McCann family had been staying and then the parents and their friends themselves.

Right at the beginning of all this I had predicted it was a complex story which would run and run. I confess to being bemused by the the tale’s longevity. The Madeline McCann story has become Dianaeque in its telling and re-telling, worse it is on a par with the empty and drifting ship the Mary Celeste.

The story of a photogenic, pretty little white girl from a professional and middle-class background was sure to attract attention.

I had always expressed serious doubts about the wisdom of the parents’ determination to avoid clear police advice and follow their own route to infamy…because that it what it has become.

The story divided neatly pro and anti. Not pro and anti the hunt for a little girl or her remains but pro and anti the parents. It has become a love-hate story.

Professional journalists have watched with increasing bemusement, bordering on horror, at the activities of sites created and devoted exclusively to the Madeleine McCann story. They have risen, flowered and been cut down. The same individuals, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty, have in their turn raged or praised as each site flourished and then fell by the wayside.

The same experts and lost souls appeared again and again, and yet again, during the brief existence of these sites. Sometimes only the keystrokes or style and use of phrases and words revealed their true identity. They took full advantage and became legends in their own lunch-times, master spies, superheroes CyberMan or DigiWoman each using the Internet’s basic anonymity to change gender, location and re-invent themselves as brilliantly clear thinkers, defenders of the faith and public morale and morals or, very sad solicitors posing as desperate housewives…

You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

So. What for the police? In the UK who can get jailed for a tweet.

Or you can be ignored.

The tweeters who called for Emma West to be raped were not chased by the police. But, then, she earned the twitter nickname ‘racist tram lady‘. There was no police action against those who wanted her dead and her child made motherless. 

What you say on Twitter can earn you a prison sentence and a police raid. But if the Twitter police don’t like your target (see Emma West should be raped; “Let’s hunt Liam Stacey down”; Josie Cunnigham should be shot) then demanding that people be murdered and making threats to rape children is fine.

Free Speech, it turns out, is only free on Twitter if the illiberal mob agree that their target is fair game and won’t snitch on you.

As for the McCanns, they continue to be the story. We are still watching the parents. But an innocent child is missing. Still missing. And we are none the wiser as to what happened to her…

PS: Comments are closed – just like the old Forum is closed – because idiots say stupid things and we can’t monitor it all.

Posted: 2nd, October 2014 | In: Key Posts, Madeleine McCann, Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink