BBC Tracks Down And Confronts An Internet Troll

from the in-case-you're-wondering dept

Lots of people wonder what internet trolls are thinking in trying to get their kicks out of being as obnoxious as possible online… and some folks at the BBC apparently were able to track down and confront an individual who had a reputation for highly obnoxious trolling — writing mean messages on Facebook tribute pages for people who were murdered. I’m not a huge fan of “confrontation” journalism, which feels pretty manufactured, but there is something amusing about watching the guy try to ignore the issue for a while, before realizing he can’t resist and he has to respond. It’s kind of a form of reverse trolling, where he fell for it…

When asked if he thinks about the people he’s hurting online he responds, “Yeah, I think fuck ’em.” Then he goes on to talk about how it’s nothing illegal, and that Facebook is an open forum so he can say whatever he wants. The BBC points out that some of what he’s saying may be illegal (under UK law), and he brushes it off, apparently responding to an earlier point that said someone got nine weeks in jail for similar statements, by saying “nine weeks, what’s that?”

It’s not the most enlightening of interviews, but given the general interest some people have in trolling, I figured some folks might find it interesting.

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Comments on “BBC Tracks Down And Confronts An Internet Troll”

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MAJikMARCer (profile) says:

Don't feed the troll

You don’t give the Nanny governments enough credit.
“We have to protect the {stupid} people from doing stuff online that might upset them.”

Whatever happened to personal responsibility and having a backbone? If you sent a scammer money, well I hope you learned your lesson. If a troll hurts your feelings, get over it, they don’t know you, you don’t know them, fuck’m.

We don’t need laws protecting peoples feelings and there are already laws in place for the scams. People just need to pay attention to what they are doing.

guest says:

Re: Don't feed the troll

what a hypocrite you must be. trolls don’t deserve to be online for all the stupid stuff they put online.

you think that’s alright to be a jerk to everyone online? you might get your ass handed to you.

laws deserve to be made and used on people who are dickheads to others. didn’t your teach you that if you can’t say something nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all? it’s sad that not many people seem to know that nowadays.

i mean, what i someone’s threatening you online? that person deserves to be sent to jail. and the ones who tell trolled victims to grow some balls are the ones who need to grow balls. same thing goes for trolls.

if trolls don’t like stuff being said to them, then they shouldn’t say it online.

Anonymous Coward says:

Troll Study

I’d be very interested to see a physiological and psychological study on Trolls. I’d like to know what they’re social & economic background is, mental state, and general characteristics that make someone say the things they do.

I know some of it is the lower inhibitions that come with being somewhat anonymous and the physical and mental distance one is from the person they speak of. But I wonder if there is a societal aspect to trolling that could be studied if more are identified and confronted.

Mesonoxian Eve (profile) says:

I was disappointed I didn’t see Hagrid falling from the sky whilst riding a motorcycle and carrying a baby (most assuredly illegal).

I don’t fault trolls for their behavior. I fault those who can’t ignore them. When they get it in their heads the trolls are the ones with the bad behavior, it’s amazing there’s still room left to get to the bottom of the barrel.

Screw trolls says:

Re: Re:

You backstabbing hypocrite. You actually think that trolls can always be ignored? Think again.

There are trolls are who so disruptive that they deserve to be banned. Hell, they spam so much that no one can take it naymore. Therefore, you should be faulting trolls instead of people who can’t ignore them.

I mean, suppose there are trolsl who make good on their threats. What if you’re one fo thsoe victims who gets antagonized by trolls in real life?

You should be ashamed of what you typed ’cause it sounds like you want to side with trolls. For that, you oughtta get hanged.

Violated (profile) says:

Bloody Journalists

I am not surprised by this. Those people mocking the families of the recently deceased, or others on their disabilities, are some of the most vile Internet users around who make an easy journalistic target.

This investigation I know well would be passed on to the Police and forms a first step in what could well be a Court case.

I should also add that some journalists misuse this investigative power to promote their own biased goals. For example they may focus on hammer attacks in one region and notice how some third party mugging website says you can buy really good hammers at such and such a place. Then despite this exact store selling thousands of hammers for a vast array of lawful purposes, and publicly condemning very rare unlawful use, these journalists can still report this store to the Police as the supplier of violent weapons! Not to forget this example journalist did not even talk to said store to get their input.

Oddly enough my exact electronics situation based on that journalistic example, in an 3-page article wrote by Paul Malley, was also something I discussed directly with one BBC journalist who just wrote it off as “old news”

The point to all this off-target rambling is that the Police and the main victim took this news report all too seriously resulting in a raid and seizure of my own company hardware. They were of course wrong in their failed case, once the record could be set straight, but there was still millions in damages done.

Michael says:

This isn't good news

I don’t like the idea that a news agency (nor any other) can take it upon itself to track down an internet user for things he said online. Right now they’re justifying their actions by going after somebody who said detestable, hateful things (and therefore can play up to the public contempt), but this is setting a precedent to justify more of the same in the future.

aguywhoneedstenbucks (profile) says:

Don't feed the troll

Agreed! People get their panties in a wad over stuff that doesn’t matter. Sadly, that’s what makes trolling so much fun. Watching someone you don’t know get all huffy about a few semi-anonymously typed words on the internet is actually kind of funny.

From Half Baked: Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, you’re cool, and fuck you, I’m out!

isaac Kotlicky (profile) says:

Maybe take a lesson from Twitter...

And create a method to “unfollow” or “opt out” of specific individuals comments? That way a troll like this would only be capable of truly insulting you once before you can just decide that you have no interest in what they have to say?

Loosing an audience for your trolling won’t stop you entirely, but it DOES limit the overall volume of offensiveness while simultaneously not imposing on anyones right to speak freely.

You can speak, I just have a right to ignore.

On the other hand, this has the potential to exacerbate “echo chamber” issues on the net. Every solution has its unintended consequences, I guess.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

This isn't good news

But… that’s what news agencies do! Track people down, ask questions, get the story. That’s the whole point!

We can question their motives in a given situation – and that already happens: trashy papers face a lot of public backlash when their tactics get too dirty – and legal backlash if their tactics break the law. But the simple concept of tracking someone down to get an interview? That’s fundamental to journalism.

isaac Kotlicky (profile) says:

This isn't good news

Silly argument.
A news organization can take it upon itself to investigate whatever it wants. There’s no reason to stop them.

If you do something they find newsworthy, then they can report on it. That’s their job.

If it isn’t newsworthy, then it’d be stupid for them to track you down.
Not really a problem here.

You’re afraid that a NEWS AGENCY will try to perform a d0x? The people interesting enough to make the news will either not care, or be smart enough to avoid it. How many hackers work for CNN?

Steve says:

Grow up!

As someone who has had their fair share of REAL WORLD abuse, I?ll tell you all what my parents told me when I was getting said abuse as a child, you may have heard it before but I think it works.
Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never harm you. Unless you let them (I added that bit).
If you stand up in front of the world shouting “look at me, look at me!”
Then you need to expect abuse no matter what it is you’re exposing to the world, and that includes grieving.

anonymous says:

Re: Grow up!

why don’t you grow up, you insensitive dickhead. that sticks and stones phrase is a load of crap. accepting abuse if for spineless weaklings.

it seems to me that what you’re doing is expecting others to be unemotional and unquestioning robots. well, how woudl you like it other people do that to you?

think about i’m telling you.

Anonymous Coward says:



They were able to track him down, without any new laws being made.

That’s all that matters, right?

I mean, let’s take the case of the guy who’s wife came up missing, then 2 years later, after his kids were taken away, he still managed to kill them, and himself, and blow the house up.

You will NEVER stop freaks, you will NEVER stop murder.

The only thing you can do is make sure there is a legit path to tracking them down and making sure justice is done.

Even sometimes, there isn’t anything you can do. Adding more laws won’t help.

The same can be applied to copyright….

Michael says:

This isn't good news

“Silly argument.
A news organization can take it upon itself to investigate whatever it wants. There’s no reason to stop them.”

That’s not the issue. The issue is that they’re playing ‘thought police’ with internet users. If they can do it, who can’t? People object whenever private parties go hunting internet users, so why is this ok? The person in question may’ve been out of line with his comments but that’s still not justification because there’s nobody drawing a line in the sand. Now, if it were a pedophile or a murderer, that would be different.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

This isn't good news

Oh really? So now tracking down anonymous internet users is considered ‘free speech?’ I dispute that.

I don’t know about free speech: it’s just freedom.

There is no law against tracking someone down. There are laws against plenty of things one might do in the course of tracking someone down (hacking their accounts, for example) and obviously doing any of those things is illegal. But to simply track someone down using whatever legal, publicly available means and information you can find? How is that not right smack dab in the middle of the definition of “freedom”?

Now, if you’re motives are bad, then people are going to think you’re an asshole even if your methods are sound. And that’s good: shame is a powerful social tool. But there’s no law against being an asshole. Freedom would be meaningless if you were only free to do nice things that everyone approves of.

Anonymous Coward says:

Maybe take a lesson from Twitter...

1) In a situation like what Nimrod did to that kid’s funeral, once is more then enough.

2) Unless that list was able to contain the ENTIRE facebook community, it simply wouldn’t work. There will always be some new asshat who’s wondering if Metroid’s gun is attached to his hand or if it’s a part of his suit.

You can ignore and try to block out trolls all you like, but I’ve seen situaions where trolls have posted things in forums or in chats in games, gotten no reaction, and just repost sometime later. At this point they believe the whole world is under their bridge.

Marcus Carab (profile) says:

This isn't good news

That’s totally fair – and I think you are responding in the right way: by expressing your personal disapproval.

It’s when you start wondering whether they “can” do this or are “free” to do so that I get concerned – because they absolutely can, and absolutely are. But, if you feel they’re being jerks about it, then I fully encourage you to do condemn them for their choices, so long as you recognize they had every right to make those choices.

MrWilson says:

I wonder

The traditional folk definition for trolling includes that it intentionally goes against the commonly held perspectives of the community at large, so no, it probably wouldn’t be trolling. Or at least, if it were intended to be trolling, it would have failed if it gained approval. Trolling is also perceived as being intentionally offensive or adversarial.

vancedecker (profile) says:

What about all the good things trolls do?

As prominent Internet Troll myself, I find this article offensive.

Have we learned nothing from the Wizard of Oz?

If Dorothy had melted Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, then she might never have gotten home.

The BBC, like the Wicked Witch of the West is just dispatching a gang of flying monkeys and hoping one of them will hurl feces at the correct target.

Why even bother explaining to these cyber-hysterics, that, like assholes, in the real world, they come in a variety of off color flavors.

vancedecker (profile) says:

I wonder

One problem with ceteris paribus based ‘folk wisdom’ is that it’s an oxymoron. If common folks had wisdom then we wouldn’t have needed a Constitutional Republic.

The riff raff cannot be expected to understand nuance and ironic humor.

Many look up the word troll on a site most likely authored by one and/or find some simplistic and literalist definition to then enable themselves to troll the internet in a desperate cry for attention.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

This isn't good news

I don’t see a precedent here. The Beeb tracked this guy down from information supplied by a third party and a thumb drive they may have gotten from that third party.

The reality is the someone, somewhere knew who this guy was before they went to the Beeb and the Beeb outed him. Someone in the REAL world.

Those few trolls I’ve met in the real world are quite proud of what they do and will spill it out to anyone who will listen about how “tough” they are and how they’re putting people in their place who need to be put there. I wouldn’t say they’re all that hard to find by the media or, if necessary, the police.

They lose their anonymity the moment they open their mouth in a bar, pub or coffee shop. I suspect that’s what’s happened here.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Troll Study

John Suler, Ph.D. did one ages ago after studying the Palace, that has in part 2 all about individual behaviour online.

There have been a lot of others specifically about Trolling though mostly 5-10yrs old now. They are still relevant, though places like Facebook being not as group interactive as older places like “The Palace”, Geocities, Biancas, or “The Well” are a lot different for troll-like behaviour since the troll really gets a different style of feedback nowadays

Anonymous Coward says:

Just lie about it not being you. If a reporter comes up to you and says “Are you blah-blah-blah on Facebook who said yakkity-yakkity” just act surprised, demand to see the “evidence” and scream that your account was cracked. It isn’t like there isn’t a ton of info on the net on how to do it, and it’d be completely possible.

Tom Forrest (user link) says:

You are a Troll, let's dissect your sick brain.

Hello Anonymous Coward,

You are one of the worst Internet trolls I have ever seen.
Maybe someday someone will figure out a good way to fix your wagon. Yes like I read you say, you are an asshole, the sick part of it is that you are proud of it.

You think you are so clever, when in fact you are a worthless piece of shit.

Why are you pretending you are not a troll?
Does that make you feel better about your prevented sick existence?

By the way you are wrong about WWII, the Germans were winning and if the USA did not come into WWII we would all be writing in German now.

Trolls like you should learn what they are talking about.

How many people do you think would like to see you in jail?

I bet many hundreds of people wish you were in jail.

Tom Forrest (user link) says:

You are a Troll, let's dissect your sick brain.

Hello Anonymous Coward (aka piece of shit troll),

I know it is debatable about WWII and some experts do agree with you that the tide had turned to the Allied Forces, however I talked with people that were in WWII and they said it could have gone either way.
I mean how does one know exactly when you go from losing to winning?
It is not binary, and for sure if the USA did not enter the war many more lives would have been lost and the war would have continued longer. Also what if the nuclear bomb was not developed, then WWII would have lasted much longer, or what if the Axis powers would have developed the nuclear bomb first?

So I want you to see that I even treat sophisticated clever evil trolls like you fairly.

Just because you are full of shit and do not know what you are talking about most of the time, in this case there is merit to your arguments about WWII.
Also it helps me figure out where you may originally be from. I wonder if you are living in America?

I think you were not born in America, maybe you come from the UK?

Please do not misunderstand me, even though you are clever, I still think you are a worthless piece of shit and your threats of what you might do to me just make me laugh at you.

What are you going to do about that AssClown?

Anon says:


If u think that freaks an’ murder can never be stopped, think again, u deluded and self-righteous asswipe. It sounds to me like u support freaks and murderers enough to let ’em run amok in this world. Well, I’m sick to fuckin’ death of them enough to want ’em all gone forever.

If I own this world, I’d get rid of u an’ all ur kind. It would fuckin’ serve u an’ them right, u shit head.

no one says:


what a self-righteous and deluded lie that is. so what ur trying to type is that people whoa re antagonized should just let their enemies walk all over them. if so, that’s utter and complete bullshit.

suppose i terrorize u all i want and order u not to defend urself. would u want ‘n’ like that. if so, don’t be surprised once u end up dead.

apgwilym83 says:

troll tracking

I honestly think this is a great idea to do – track down people who have no backbone and confront them.

When people brush it off as a “tiny bit of criticism” and “just a few words” it’s often much more vile trolling like the lady who had some troll sending her pictures of her dead son hanging himself! I think the sort of person who does that deserves to be tracked down and confronted. If that happened to one of my family members, I wouldn’t be able to just brush it off and we all know the police don’t bother these days.

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