Internet Troll Jailed In The UK For Being A Jerk Online

from the 4chan-/b/-just-got-worried dept

We've written a few times in the past about various attempts to outlaw "being a jerk" online. These efforts are often well meaning, but pretty dangerous from the standpoint of any sort of belief in free speech. Being a jerk is silly and obnoxious, but it shouldn't be illegal. However, as a whole bunch of you have sent in, over in the UK, they feel differently. An internet troll who mocked a variety of dead people to their grieving friends and families has been sentenced to jail for "sending malicious communications." He got 18 weeks as the judge said, "You have caused untold distress to already grieving friends and family."

This is troubling on any number of levels. Most specifically, it's exceptionally worrisome when you base punishment on how someone responds to speech made by someone else. Yes, the comments were obnoxious and totally classless and uncalled for. But, whether or not they cause "distress" should not be the basis for judging whether or not they're legal. There are lots of things that someone can say that would cause distress, but that shouldn't make it illegal to say them. This certainly opens up a can of worms over just what kind of speech is so distressing that it gets you jail time. Either way, if you're from the UK, be careful what you post in our comments going forward. It apparently could get you jail time.


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  1.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:20am

    Hey, AC Number 1 where are you located?? ;)

     

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  2.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Re:

    "Hey, AC Number 1 where are you located?? ;)"

    I'm fairly certain Jackassistan is outside this rulings jurisdiction....

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:35am

    I believe harassment can also result in jail time here in the states.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re:

    This is the day you almost caught Jack Sparrow...oh wait, this is not about pirates.

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:36am

    Shocked & Horrified

    I am shocked, shocked horrified & dismayed at this judgment! So far as I'm concerned never have I been affronted by a more malicious communication!

    Seeing as the judge is in the UK and I've been maligned online according to his precedent, how do I get him thrown in jail?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:38am

    Re:

    Last time I looked, my passport said "British Citizen".

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:39am

    Re:

    Yeah, perhaps if you violate a restraining order... granted by a court after a hearing where it's proven that a restraining order is necessary in the first place.

     

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    cannonfodder (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:46am

    Police State.

    Wait a minuet, so if this man has been sent to prison for this offence, why hasn't anyone from the police been sent down for lying about, deformation, & character assassination spewed all over the media about Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles de Menezes, & most recently Mark Duggan.

    an apology is all that is required from the police to justify their lies & the distress it has caused?

    MANY LAWS FOR US NONE FOR THEM, UK POLICE STATE GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER & SLANDER.

    why hasn't the UK gov especially tony blain, jeff hoon, jack straw, david miliband been sent down for lying about Iraq or rendition & torture.

     

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    HothMonster, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Re: Shocked & Horrified

    can we make it a class action? this judges ruling distresses me

     

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    HothMonster, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:52am

    Re: Police State.

    you want justice? from the justice system? thats silly

     

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    Duke (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 10:54am

    s127 Communications Act 2003

    For those interested, it sounds like this was another (ab)use of s127 Communications Act 2003, which criminalises sending a message that is "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character" or "for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another."

    This is the same law (that apparently dates from the days when telephones were very rare, and was used to protected operators) that is being used in the ongoing Twitter Joke Trial.

    It's a rather stupid and out-dated law.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:04am

    Re: s127 Communications Act 2003

    A) I didn't know telephones were rare in 2003.
    B) I bet this was not what this law was intended to be used for
    C)Because I'm not in England I can safely tell you that there are snipers on the roof across from you staring into your window

     

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    Another AC, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:14am

    A little over the top here

    "Duffy, who is unemployed and did not know any of his victims, pleaded guilty to two counts of sending malicious communications relating to Natasha."

    He plead guilty to the charges oddly. I wonder what would have happened had he not done that and actually tried to defend himself.

    That said, the reporting is a little too over the top for me. His "Victims"? "Duffy's series of online attacks"? Come on, could we possibly make this more over-blown than that?

     

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    Lord Binky, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:20am

    It was intended to harm them...

    And I know intent is poor choice base laws on. Still I don't know what kind of social norms would keep this in check if you want free speech that is clearly harassment of a stranger. Hiding behind the anonimity makes it a little harder to stop abuse of a person like that. Make it so he is not punished but his identity will be known and let social norms take over from there? Outside of jail time/fines he likely enjoys the attention, so what would the community do to discourage such behaviour? Have banks refuse to continue business with him? Stores and restuarants refuse service?

    Oh, and he did not know anyone he was doing this to, he simply was going out of his way, communicating directly to and trying to cause pain to the people trying grieve for the loss of someone they cared about and draw out emotional reactions.

     

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    Anonymous, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:23am

    Hopefully Westboro Baptists will travel to UK to protest this ruling and be similarly jailed.

     

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    Duke (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:29am

    Re: Re: s127 Communications Act 2003

    In response to A), s127 CA was copied/transferred from s43 Telecommunications Act 1984, which in turn was based on one of the 1900s Telegraph Acts (but I haven't been able to find it yet) - I don't imagine it was ever debated; just carried over from older legislation without question.

    As for C), you not being in England (or England and Wales, the UK, the EU etc.) may not prevent extradition - although that only seems to work with people going to the US. Also, you assume there is a roof across from me and that I have a window.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:32am

    Re: It was intended to harm them...

    The same thing you do with all trolls, ignore them. Then they don't get what they want, attention.

     

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    anonymous disenfranchised Dutch coward, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:38am

    westboro baptist

    and now it's your girlfriend hit by a train and this guy stands next to you at the funeral and starts a conversation to lighten up the whole situation in his own unique way. would you brake his face or would you appreciate the value of free speech?

     

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    Jason, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:43am

    Re: westboro baptist

    simple, break his face and spend the next couple years in jail for assualt. Might be worth it ;)

     

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    theDude, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:43am

    Obnoxious Speech

    "These efforts are often well meaning, but pretty dangerous from the standpoint of any sort of belief in free speech. Being a jerk is silly and obnoxious, but it shouldn't be illegal."

    Isn't offensive or "obnoxious" speech, the only kind that really needs protection?

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:47am

    Re: Obnoxious Speech

    I find people who only speak in agreeable phrases and overuse the word "friend" to be downright creepy... But they deserve the right to free speech as much as anybody.

     

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  22.  
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    Ron Rezendes (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:55am

    Re: Police State.

    Silly rabbit, laws are for peasants!

     

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  23.  
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    Jimr (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 12:05pm

    He was an ass but at the point where he communicated directly to the grieving family members is where he crossed the line; hence "sending malicious communications".

    He just happen to use a tool, the internet, to harass the families and promote harassment.

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    Re: Re:

    > Last time I looked, my passport said
    > "British Citizen".

    I thought you guys were 'subjects' over there, not 'citizens'.

     

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    lol, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    .... there is suppose to be a "Captain" somewhere in there...

     

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  26.  
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    Nicholas Alexander (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 12:16pm

    Freedom of speech

    The only country I know of that has freedom of speech enshrined in law is the USA.

    The UK certainly does not. London has 2 million video cameras to catch rioters and thieves. The UK has a conservative government that leans on the judiciary to put petty thieves into jail for stealing bottles of water.

    You can generally get away for saying most things, and the press can be heartless and very cruel. But when News of the World was caught listening in on private phone conversations and started publishing who was sleeping around with whom there was only a huge public reaction when it was revealed that a murdered school girl's phone was hacked.

    And this case is similar. The government also recently stopped a racist organisation from doing a protest march. The Prime Minister now avoids talking to his erstwhile darlings, the Murdochs....

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 12:31pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Similarly, I though it would say: "British Peasant #124578" what with they still having kings and all.

     

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  28.  
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    Your Friend, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Re: Obnoxious Speech

    Why the disagreeable attitude, friend?

    Can't we just be friends? I'd certainly like to be your friend. :) :) :)

     

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  29.  
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    Martin, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 12:59pm

    The sicko does not deserve any sympathy as he went a lot further than just acting a jerk. Look at this and let me know if you would like your family to be subjected to this. He should have got 18 years not 18 months.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/8760504/Internet-troll-jailed-for-mocking-de ad-teenagers-on-Facebook.html

     

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  30.  
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    Duke (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Freedom of speech

    The UK has a limited form of "freedom of speech" enshrined in its Bill of Rights 1689, and there are some cases around the 1660s and 70s discussing it. A quick search also suggests that it is covered by Article 11 of France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen from 1789. Of course, since the 1950s, the UK has had the slightly different "freedom of expression" (which is now enshrined in 47 countries across Europe); it's like freedom of speech but is broader (in the sense of covering things other than words), but can be restricted as to *how* an idea is expressed.

    "London has 2 million video cameras to catch rioters and thieves." While I can't disprove this, I have serious doubts that this is true; for example, it seems the London Underground only has around 6,000 cameras, and they're not just for thieves and rioters, obviously.

    That said, I do agree with the rest of what you've said; the current UK government has shown contempt for basic principles of law by leaning on the lower courts, openly undermining the High Court and following their predecessor's habit of publicly criticising the higher courts whenever they give an "inconvenient" ruling. Parliament (in general - there are some good MPs) has shown itself incapable of taking any real action (not to mention containing fraudsters and criminals) to challenge the government, or do anything that isn't in its own interests and many of the newspapers have happily ignored the law whenever they feel like it. It's all rather depressing.times.

     

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    The Incoherent One (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 1:48pm

    Re: Re: westboro baptist

    Should be enough witnesses on your side at the funeral that either they would help you, or they would say that HE started it.

     

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    PaulT (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 1:55pm

    Re: Re:

    So, you don't have a British passport then? Figures you'd lie.

     

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  33.  
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    Jeffrey Nonken (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Hey, don't mock the British class system!

    Besides, he's probably part of the nobility. ;)

     

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    heyidiot (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 1:58pm

    You are saying that you would like to live in a world where someone should get 18 years in jail for the "crime" of making a few people feel very very bad?

    Why stop there? Why not make alcoholism a capital offense?

    On the other hand, maybe you should attack the real problem, which appears to me to be the manufacturers of the strange devices these victims used to access the Internet, ...which apparently force their users to visit the most personally offensive Facebook pages possible, and simultaneously disable their OFF switches.

     

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    candide08 (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 3:04pm

    There is a difference between saying

    something and posting it on the internet.

    If you say something rude to someone it is over quickly and has a limited audience.

    Internet postings are (more or less) forever and can be seen by millions of people.

    I'm not saying that either should be illegal, just that there are differences and there are limits to "free" speech.

     

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    NotAJerkOnline (UK), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 3:09pm

    Now I'm no troll, and I certainly appreciate this jerk was a major jerk, but I'm growing more sick of this country every day. It's time to emigrate.

     

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    Bergman (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 3:11pm

    It's not a very big step from making a law making unpleasant speech a crime to claiming any opposing speech is unpleasant.

    Although I imagine it would seriously streamline the election process...

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 3:17pm

    Re: There is a difference between saying

    > there are limits to "free" speech

    The common refrain of censors everywhere.

     

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    Nicholas Alexander (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 3:38pm

    Re: Re: Freedom of speech

    You are probably more correct than my exaggeration, I agree that I was being inaccurate and probably repeating urban myth - to some degree - but I did find this on Wikipedia:

    "The exact number of CCTV cameras in the UK is not known for certain because there is no requirement to register CCTV cameras. However, research published in CCTV Image magazine estimates that the number of cameras in the UK is 1.85 million."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed-circuit_television

    Although I was being a bit dramatic by implying that the police have that many eyes (the majority of CCTV cameras are probably not monitored by police but are private ones that the police can access), but there are so many cameras on citizens the level of monitoring of citizens rather supports the contention that free speech / the right to protest or demonstrate is actively suppressed by the Government.

    The student fee protests last winter and police tactics of punishing young people by essentially holding them for hours in cramped conditions was seen as a violation of rights by many, but after the recent riots/lootings the Government quietly introduced rubber bullets and water canons to quell dissent. Interestingly some of the idiots who ransacked shops believed they were justified due to "taxes".

    Living in London - you do not really feel that repressed and I am not afraid to make statements about human rights in newspaper comments under my own name. But it is true that this Government has an agenda with civil liberties a very low priority.

    Then again, knife crime and muggings are rife -- I am not saying these cameras are not helpful in putting criminals away, or that they may be useful in combating terrorism.

    Thank you for reminding me of France's Rights of Man and the Citizen. Freedom of speech is a more unusual condition than American citizens realise. I think American kids presume that the rest of the world think like they do, or share their norms.

    And frankly, I do agree that this individual received a sentence he deserved for the emotional violence of his incredibly sick acts. But it does create a precedent - jail for trolling is certainly a new thing. Not sure it is a good precedent if it is used to punish people for posting stuff on this message board, for example.

    Freedom of speech is one thing. Highly abusive intimidation is something else.

     

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    Glenn, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 4:53pm

    Oh, my...

    I'm distressed by this legal action, judge... please go to jail; go directly to jail and do not collect your salary for this month. That is all.

     

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    Atkray (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 5:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That would explain a lot.

     

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    Atkray (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 5:14pm

    Whatever happened to sticks and stones may break my bones but names will NEVER hurt me. emphasis added

     

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    The Incoherent One (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 5:19pm

    Re: Re: Obnoxious Speech

    Throw in an out of place "brother" and a one shoulder hug as well.

     

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    FreeYourMind, Sep 14th, 2011 @ 7:17pm

    One more notch for control..

    Just one more inch towards ultimate control of all we say and do...

     

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    The eejit (profile), Sep 14th, 2011 @ 11:09pm

    Re: westboro baptist

    Stab him in the eye, he only needs one.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2011 @ 3:06am

    this is why we declared independence

    Skrew you UK, this is the kind of behaviors that caused so many people to rebel against your evil empire

     

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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 5:05am

    Re: Re: Re: westboro baptist

    actually, they wouldn't have to lie, there's all sorts of get out's in the UK law around provocation - Depending on the level of damage done, and that's a grey area too, "reasonable force" and other such measuring scales with no actual scalable measurements, so then it's down to the police to decide what was reasonable and after that, the judge then the appeal judge(s).

    This may be restricting free speech, but when free speech restricts other's freedom (to grieve for instance, or to try to rebuild their emotional state to something getting near normal) then there has to be some way to stop it, doesn't there?

     

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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 5:16am

    Treason?

    As a side note, if this was said about the royal family in the UK the law still states that this would be a capital crime, the only one remaining in the UK - Treason.
    Which to quote the original law, circa 1351AD (http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110914/02380815946/internet-troll-jailed-uk-being-jerk-online.sh tml?threaded=true#c614) :

    The original law said: "When a Man doth compass or imagine the Death of our Lord the King, or of our Lady his Queen or of their eldest Son and Heir; or if a Man do violate the King's Companion, or the King's eldest Daughter unmarried, or the Wife the King's eldest Son and Heir; or if a Man do levy War against our Lord the King in his Realm, or be adherent to the King's Enemies in his Realm, giving to them Aid and Comfort in the Realm."

    Or rather what the law actually said was in Norman French, but put succinctly in English, you can't kill, conspire against or wage war against the king and his family. You also can't have sex with his wife, heir's wife or his unmarried eldest daughter. And the act goes on to rule out actions against the chancellor, treasurer and various categories of senior judge


    "[To] be drawn on a hurdle to the place of execution and there be hanged by the neck, but not until they are dead, but that they should be taken down again, and that when they are yet alive their bowels should be taken out and burnt before their faces, and that afterwards their heads should be severed from their bodies, and their bodies be divided into four quarters, and their heads and quarters to be at the King's disposal."

     

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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 5:21am

    Re: this is why we declared independence

    it was an empire, and it was the British Empire, not the United Kingdom Empire - It was possibly evil, but only in line with what is considered evil today, at the time what it did was the norm - just have a read on the French Empire, or the Ottoman Empire of rcomparison, the only difference is that the British Empire was the biggest (once)

     

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    nasch (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 7:56am

    Re: s127 Communications Act 2003

    Wow, it's illegal to send annoying messages in England. I had no idea...

     

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    nasch (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 7:58am

    Re: It was intended to harm them...

    If you want free speech, you're going to get some speech you don't like. I really don't think there's any way to have it both ways. The UK appears to be leaning towards making sure to get rid of speech they don't like, rather than making sure to protect freedom of speech. That is sad IMO.

     

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    nasch (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 8:02am

    Re:

    Nobody is offering him any sympathy, and whether I like what he did does not have any bearing on whether I think it should be protected speech.

     

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    nasch (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 8:06am

    Re: Treason?

    How does that play with EU law (should that be in quotes?), which I understand forbids capital punishment?

     

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    Niall (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 8:12am

    Re: It was intended to harm them...

    If he's a loner, then 'social norms' are a bit meaningless if he's outside their scope.

    Since we don't have a level of freedom of speech in the UK as formalised as in the US, it's a grey area where this comes, but certainly actively and apparently maliciously (and remember, he pled guilty here) causing emotional harm is something that people feel strongly about. According to papers here, he did quite bit of this, and it was only on a couple of counts (i.e. enough for them to smack him down on) that he pled guilty - others may have taken more proof.

    Personally, I have mixed feelings on this, regarding free speech versus justice.

     

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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re: Treason?

    The UK could always do 'A France' and agree to all EU Laws, make sure every other country within the EU abides, but cunningly, overlook the fact France fails to abide by many of them itself.... foolproof!!

     

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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 8:17am

    Re: Re: Treason?

    and, yes, to some "EU Law" is an oxymoron...

     

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    aikiwolfie (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 12:53pm

    This is not a violation of free speech.

    If someone was running around a cemetery kicking over headstones wouldn't people expect the police and the courts to do something about it?

    Defacing a memorial is just wrong no matter where it's done.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2011 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: westboro baptist

    but when free speech restricts other's freedom (to grieve for instance

    The girls brother decided to grieve in public by creating a Facebook tribute page. He could have grieved privately but he choose not to. Duffy didn't restrict their freedom in any way, shape, or form ... he offended them. Once you start locking up people for offending other people, good luck, you're gonna' need it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2011 @ 1:22pm

    Re:

    Actually, the family of the dead girl created a public page on Facebook. They used the internet to make their grieving public ... so ... what did they expect? Have they never used the internet before?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2011 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Freedom of speech

    Highly abusive intimidation is something else.

    Did you read the article by any chance? When they said he made a video called Tasha the Tank Engine I laughed out loud. It may not be appropriate but it was still funny ... to me.

    And that is kind of the point isn't it (one man's trash is another man's treasure and all that). As far as I'm concerned, the families shouldn't have any expectation of avoiding offensive comments when they choose to make their grieving public and create Facebook pages or other public websites. Actually, I'm offended by the idea of a tribute page for a dead relative, but I'm even more offended by the people that take photographs of their miscarriages and create tribute pages to their unborn children. When can we start locking up the people that offend me?

     

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  61.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2011 @ 1:33pm

    Re:

    I'll repeat (from above), I laughed out loud when I saw that he had created a video called 'Tasha the Tank Engine'. It may not be appropriate, but it was funny ... to me.

    If you don't want negative comments about your dead relatives stop making Facebook tribute pages and looking for sympathy from people who don't give a crap about you or your family.

    He should have got 18 years not 18 months.

    If you really believe that then you need to spend the rest of your life in a padded room.

     

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  62.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2011 @ 1:35pm

    Re: There is a difference between saying

    The family created the facebook tribute page.

    They put up a sign asking for commentary. What did they honestly expect?

     

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  63.  
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    Nicholas Alexander (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 2:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: westboro baptist

    Expressions of grief in public do not deserve hate speech.

    Whether the idiot deserved jail for posting on FB or not was up to the judge (or the appeal court) applying British laws.

    There seems to be an idea that because it's on FB it is invited? That idea makes no sense. It is direct evidence of blatant anti-social behaviour.

     

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  64.  
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    Nicholas Alexander (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Freedom of speech

    Sure, if they break the law, lay charges and see where it goes. Unfortunately for the accused, you were not the judge.

     

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  65.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 3:32pm

    Re: This is not a violation of free speech.

    I must have missed it, did this guy deface a memorial? I thought he just sent messages.

     

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  66.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 15th, 2011 @ 3:37pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: westboro baptist

    There seems to be an idea that because it's on FB it is invited?

    Apparently they invited public commentary. It's just disturbing that someone can be put in jail because their commentary was offensive.

     

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  67.  
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    Nicholas Alexander (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 12:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: westboro baptist

    I agree, but try approaching a policeman and saying something equally offensive in various countries...

     

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  68.  
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    bratwurzt (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 2:35am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    at least God isn't pushed into our faces like McDonalds here in Europe...

     

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  69.  
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    bratwurzt (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 2:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I'm sorry - I meant god, like in 'any minor or major god people these days still believe in'

     

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  70.  
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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 4:21am

    Re: Re: This is not a violation of free speech.

    He defaced a memorial, which in this case was through the medium of messages on a web page.
    Perhaps a more fitting example other than kicking over headstones would be to poster over the headstones with abusive/offensive comments.

     

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  71.  
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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 4:45am

    Re: One more notch for control..

    I don't know, there's the right to free speech, but there's also slander/libel laws, I don't think the girl in question "fell asleep on the railway line" so at what point does free speech turn into slander/libel? (in the UK internet ‘libel’ has been judged to be more akin to slander, hence the use of “slander/libel” - http://www.lawdit.co.uk/reading_room/room/view_article.asp?name=../articles/5176-Bulletin-Boards-Sla nder-Or-Libel.htm)
    Seperately, if you go by the charge, if this wasn't meant as an attack then what was the point, getting laughs by someone else's misfortune has often been the staple diet of stand up comedians, getting laughs out of someone’s untimely death, I would suggest, probably wouldn't go down so well.

     

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  72.  
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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 4:47am

    Re:

    Is falsely suggesting that the dead girl "fell asleep on the railway track" name calling?

     

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  73.  
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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 4:50am

    Re: Re: There is a difference between saying

    Call me niaive, but they probably expected the girls friends to post sympathy or amusing stories of what they got up to or other memories - Sharing grief is a well practiced method of relieving grief.

     

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  74.  
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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 4:53am

    Re: Re:

    I don't think they were looking for sympathy from people who didn't know the girl, quite the opposite I suspect, they just created a page where memories, thoughts and sympathy can be easily written down and shared by all involved.
    Is it wrong to expect as much?

     

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  75.  
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    Niall (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 5:01am

    Re: Re: There is a difference between saying

    Respect generally, not unwarranted abuse.

    That's like saying "Oh, they had the funeral in a public place (i.e. cemetary), therefore they should have expected yobs shouting abuse and throwing things!"

     

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  76.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2011 @ 6:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Freedom of speech

    You're right, it's unfortunate for Duffy that a mouth breathing sub-human with limited intellect was both appointed to the court and given the ability to jail people.

     

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  77.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2011 @ 6:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    That's why Facebook has privacy settings.

     

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  78.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2011 @ 6:09am

    Re: Re: Re: There is a difference between saying

    Yep, which is why we have viewings, visitations, wakes, funerals, graveyards, and a host of other events to remember the dead.

    But if you want to put your grieving online, in a public forum (remember Facebook has privacy settings) then you get all the positive and negatives that come along with that.

    What if the accused had written something like, "[Dead teenager name here] drugged and raped me"? What if it was even true? I'm sure the family would be equally offended by such comments (assuming they didn't know about it). Should that person go to jail? What if they can't prove it was true?

    The point is stupid rulings in countries of law tend to have terrible consequences.

     

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  79.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2011 @ 6:17am

    Re: Re: Re: There is a difference between saying

    That is nothing like saying "Oh, they had the funeral in a public place ..." You see, in the real world, random people don't drive all over the country reading local papers so that they can show up at funerals and yell at the mourners ... because they would probably get punched in the face.

    This is the internet where it is par for the course that people write foolish, insensitive, and ignorant comments anonymously. Stop using shitty analogies.

    I'll repeat, again, Facebook has privacy settings, use them.

    Now onto yelling at people at funerals. I don't love the recent SCOTUS ruling about Westboro Bat-shit crazy church, but I do respect it. Speech is best countered by more speech, or by ignoring the speech you don't care for. All types of people are offended by all types of things, are we going to put everyone on the planet in jail? Would other countries allow extradition so that you could be jailed for saying something that offends Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc? Where does it stop? Does it matter how upset the other person is?

     

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  80.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2011 @ 6:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: westboro baptist

    So which is it? Because you seem to be on both sides of the fence? You're argument is, essentially, he didn't deserve to go to jail but the British court system put him there so ... why even bother talking?

    Expressions of grief in public do not deserve hate speech.

    No one said the deserved hate speech, it just happened that someone used offensive speech. (Hate speech is usually a phrase reserved for speech which demeans a class of people not an individual.)

    There seems to be an idea that because it's on FB it is invited?

    If they were not inviting commentary, then why put a page up on Facebook with comments enabled and no privacy settings? I'm sure that they didn't anticipate this type of thing happening but they made a choice to turn their grieving into a public spectacle and they have to deal with the consequences of that choice.

     

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  81.  
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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 6:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So, because they didn't have a full list of facebook accounts that would want to post respectfully (maybe some family members didn't have a facebook account and only wanted to share in others memories?), they have, indirectly, invited abuse from an alcoholic loner (quoted from the telegraph article linked somewhere above) who knew what he was doing would cause offence and has led a wrongfully accused cyberbully (in a seperate case, again quoted from the telegraph) taking an overdose?
    I again point towards what is free speech and what is defamation (see my libel/slander post on this thread)

     

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  82.  
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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 6:41am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: There is a difference between saying

    "This is the internet where it is par for the course that people write foolish, insensitive, and ignorant comments anonymously."
    Followed by:
    "Stop using shitty analogies."

    Priceless...

     

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  83.  
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    Butcherer79 (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 7:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: There is a difference between saying

    "What if the accused had written something like, "[Dead teenager name here] drugged and raped me"? What if it was even true? I'm sure the family would be equally offended by such comments (assuming they didn't know about it). Should that person go to jail? What if they can't prove it was true?"

    The accused didn't and what he did write wasn't true, by his own admission, IF that had been the case, then presumably he would be able to prove the worthiness of his claim, however, he didn't know the girl so the argument is invalid - this was about a stranger getting kicks out of maliscious posts, not posting the truth...

     

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  84.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 8:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: westboro baptist

    It wouldn't be wise, but if a cop arrests you for saying something offensive to him (or her), IMO that would be a 3rd-world, police state sort of thing to do. Which is the sort of thing happening more and more often in the US it seems, and maybe the UK too.

     

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  85.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 8:02am

    Re: Re: Re: This is not a violation of free speech.

    I don't think equating a Facebook page to a headstone is a legitimate comparison.

     

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  86.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 8:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I don't think they were looking for sympathy from people who didn't know the girl, quite the opposite I suspect, they just created a page where memories, thoughts and sympathy can be easily written down and shared by all involved.
    Is it wrong to expect as much?


    Wrong as in incorrect, or wrong as in immoral? Clearly as it turns out they were incorrect in their expectations.

     

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  87.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 8:05am

    Re: Re: One more notch for control..

    I don't know, there's the right to free speech, but there's also slander/libel laws

    He wasn't charged with those, so I don't think that's relevant.

     

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  88.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 8:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: There is a difference between saying

    You could argue that was insensitive (though I think that would indicate some level of oversensitivity), but it was certainly neither foolish nor ignorant.

     

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  89.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 8:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: There is a difference between saying

    It's a valid question though. Would truth be an absolute defense against prosecutions of this law he pled guilty to violating (which I understand is separate from defamation)? Anybody know? This law is doubleplus ungood if you can even be convicted for saying something that's true.

     

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  90.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2011 @ 10:34am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I've been trying to avoid saying it this way but here it goes.

    Some stuff doesn't belong on the internet.

    For me, grieving is one of the first things that comes to mind. So much online communication is superficial and done out of habit that I actually find the idea of a "grieving page" kind of disgusting. People constantly post messages without giving them any thought (see the Facebook birthday discussion on Techdirt) and a part of online communication is almost competitive (I can be more sad than so-and-so.)

    That aside, this is clearly not defamation.

    Defamation: a false accusation of an offense or a malicious misrepresentation of someone's words or actions.

    He was rude (and actually kind of funny with the Tasha the Tank Engine thing) but he didn't do anything that would violate US style free speech laws. That said, there was a reason we rebelled against the UK, tyranny.

     

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  91.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2011 @ 10:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: There is a difference between saying

    what he did write wasn't true

    What did he write about the girl that wasn't true? As far as I know he made some kind of "forgot to stop lolz" comment and made the Tasha the Tank Engine video. Did he accuse her of specific actions?

    this was about a stranger getting kicks out of maliscious posts

    Yup, he wrote something dumb, had a laugh (or maybe passed out drunk) and now he is in jail. What's up next? Thought crime? You're aware he didn't actually kill the girl right? That is the kind of thing people usually get put in prison for, not for saying things some people (not all people just some) don't like. (Well, at least in 1st world countries).

     

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  92.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2011 @ 10:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: There is a difference between saying

    Wow, I just responded to three of your posts before reading this response.

    I give up, you clearly don't have the reading comprehension to follow this line of discussion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  93.  
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    Nicholas Alexander (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 4:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: westboro baptist

    Yes, I am on the fence on this. The arguments here have affected the way I have thought about this. I comment because it is interesting. Hope that is cool with you.

    The defendant is an Aspergers case and prison is probably going to be pure hell. The public sentiment in the UK at the moment is moving into a logic of lock them up and when that starts to apply to protesters, then of course it is wrong.

    The defendant also expressed remorse. He apologised and the judge felt it necessary to make an example of him. The judge's decision can be overturned but it is a legal sentence.

    But I am saying that just because it is in a "public forum" like FB, it does not change the basic laws of harassment or libel, in fact it creates evidence that is hard to refute. British residents may have to think twice before doing stuff like this. The judge probably wanted people to think twice about what they do online, or off line.

    Not everyone who has lost a loved one is going to set their privacy settings exactly correct. If you lose a child you are going to make mistakes and FB have changed their privacy default settings quite a bit.

     

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  94.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 16th, 2011 @ 6:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: westboro baptist

    He apologised and the judge felt it necessary to make an example of him.

    In the US I think it's considered a violation of the 8th Amendment (cruel and unusual punishment) to give someone a stiffer sentence in order to make an example, rather than sentencing purely based on the crime, the perpetrator, and the circumstances. Don't know about UK law though.

    The judge probably wanted people to think twice about what they do online, or off line.

    That's called a chilling effect, and again in the US (I know, I know, but it's the law that I'm familiar with) protection of free speech means creating chilling effects must be justified in some way. Clearly the UK doesn't value free speech nearly as much as the US does.

     

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  95.  
    identicon
    Decani, Mar 29th, 2012 @ 7:56pm

    I cannot understand this conversation

    Okay, so I'm just going to put this out there; I went to the same school as Tash, I was in the same form as her brother, I was there when we were told the news by a teacher on the verge of tears, I saw the pain and hysteria that exploded in the ranks of the Year 10 girls. I am clearly biased.

    However, having said that I hope I would respond similarly if a stranger was the topic of this conversation.

    Tash was bullied on the internet, relentlessly. We will never know precisely what drove her to do what she did, but malicious comments on the internet played a part in her death. We can only imagine that she saw no other way out, so on the eve of Valentine's Day 2011 she escaped the torture in a terribly tragic way. She was fifteen. All James (her brother) and their parents asked was for people to let her rest in peace; but no, the bullying continued. How anyone can say that's acceptable is beyond me. Duffy was not just a "major jerk," (offensive in itself) he was a predatory, sadistic man who knew exactly what he was doing. He set out to rip into the memory of a girl who was smart and well-loved and who definitely did not deserve that sort of treatment, pre- or post-humously. To suggest that what he did was okay is just disgusting.

    Duffy thought he could do whatever he liked because he was sat behind a computer screen. His behaviour would not have been acceptable in the real world, so why is it acceptable in cyberspace? Free speech does not extend to the harrassment or infliction of pain on others. About a month ago a woman received a short prison sentence because she had launched into a racist attack in the middle of a crowded tram. I am proud to say that I'm from a country that considers that sort of behaviour completely unacceptable and this extends to people's activity on the internet. Frankly I find that being lectured on morals and freedoms by citizens of a country that still imposes the death penalty is laughable.

    The fall-out of Duffy's actions was astronomical. I don't think you appreciate the sort of effect his comments had. Our school community is incredibly tight-knit, something we pride ourselves on. To lose a member of that community in such a horrible fashion had massive repercussions and the hole she left in her year is still keenly felt. The raw grief alone was awful enough, but to dump a whole fresh hell on top of that, to have Tash's friends and classmates subjected to 'Tasha the Tank Engine'?! In school we were told to ignore the trolls, to not let them encroach on our memories of Tash. But you can't unsee something like that. Duffy caused unimaginable suffering to so many people who were only trying to support each other in a grieving process that shouldn't have had to've been endured.

    I would also like to set one of your 'facts' straight. The MacBryde family did not set the Facebook tribute page up, Tash's friends did. Tash's fifteen year old friends. Granted, James gave it his blessing, understanding that they simply needed somewhere to talk and support each other in a public forum; it was also for the benefit of the wider school and local communities. The tribute page was taken down shortly after the trolling and a new one now exists with tightened privacy settings to prevent something this awful happening again.

    When something like what happened to Tash happens in such a public and media-frenzied way, especially since she was so young, the grief is public too. Young girls aren't emotionally repressed like everyone on this board seems to be. They are vital and caring and extraordinarily vulnerable. They shouldn't have had to deal with the death of their friend, but they absolutely shouldn't have been subjected to such a violent attack.

     

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  96.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 31st, 2012 @ 7:06am

    Re: I cannot understand this conversation

    Thanks for posting.

    Free speech does not extend to the harrassment or infliction of pain on others.

    Even if the US, if this rose to the level of harrassment (I don't know what exactly the requirements would be, and it probably varies from state to state), it could be actionable.

    About a month ago a woman received a short prison sentence because she had launched into a racist attack in the middle of a crowded tram. I am proud to say that I'm from a country that considers that sort of behaviour completely unacceptable and this extends to people's activity on the internet.

    It's a difference of philosophy. In some contexts in the US, we value the liberty to do as we please more highly than making sure nobody gets hurt. I say in some contexts, because in terms of physical danger, we seem to be over the top in making sure nobody can get hurt, but that's probably because of the sue-happy nature of the country.

    Frankly I find that being lectured on morals and freedoms by citizens of a country that still imposes the death penalty is laughable.

    I don't support the death penalty either. Probably for different reasons than you, but that's off topic.

    Young girls aren't emotionally repressed like everyone on this board seems to be.

    I'm not sure where you're getting that. We weren't involved, so I don't think you should expect an upwelling of emotion about it here.

    To suggest that what he did was okay is just disgusting.

    Who, exactly, is suggesting that what he did was okay?

    Sorry for your loss, and thanks again for posting your thoughts.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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