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Hunting the Internet Bullies (2012)

Panorama

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STORYLINE


The programme, put together with Panorama’s customary precision and lack of sensationalism, was a bleak half-hour about some people’s deployment of the internet to make life utterly – and in some cases unbearably – miserable; a portrait of cyber-succubi drawing their energy and pleasure from the knowledge that they are inducing despair in others.

Most of the programme’s concerns were crystallised in the story of Natasha McBryde who, after being bullied by nameless contributors on the social networking site Formspring, walked out of the house one evening and threw herself under a train. Hours after a memorial website was set up another and particularly malevolent species of bully descended on it. Known as RIP trolls, they left messages like “Natasha wasn’t bullied, she was just a whore” underneath friends’ tributes and no doubt LOL’d themselves silly at the thought of the extra grief they were causing her family.

The Panorama team tracked down and confronted an RIP troll (who liked to leave messages on, for example, tribute sites set up to remember murdered student Anuj Bidve and rapper Dolla that generally began “Rot in piss” and ended in some choice racist epithets) named Darren Burton, who was about as unlovely as you would imagine. Has he ever considered the people he is hurting? “Yeah. I think – ‘fuck ’em’.”


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