Thursday, February 09, 2012

BBC reporter tracks down an Internet troll

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Internet trolls are perhaps simultaneously the vilest and most commonplace occurrence on the Web, and it’s clear to anyone that those who spend their time leaving deliberately mindless and inflammatory messages do it for no other purpose than their own shits & giggles at seeing others get riled up. But for those who are curious to see what these Internet Tough Guys look like in the flesh, the BBC program Panorama did some digging and managed to track one of these twerps down:

My transcript: (click the [+/-] to expand/collapse →) []

DECLAN LAWN (V.O.): But we decided to try and track one down. We met a source who’s familiar with the trolling community [wait – trolls are a community now? — JM], and he gave us information about a notorious troll. The troll’s screen name is “Nimrod Severn”.

[Lawn shows us evidence of “Nimrod Severn”’s trolling on various Facebook RIP tribute pages, where he leaves numerous hateful and bigoted comments.]

LAWN (V.O.): We wanted to meet the person behind Nimrod Severn, and it turns out we were able to put a face to a name. His real name is Darren Burton. It was time to pay him a visit.

[In summary: Lawn ambushes Burton as he’s about to board a bus, asking Burton how he justifies his trolling. Burton is quiet and evasive at first, but then answers whether he cares about the people he’s hurting: “Fuck ’em.” Burton raises the point that Facebook is an open forum and that he has the right to say whatever he wants. Lawn notes that certain racist language is illegal under U.K. law, but Burton blows these concerns off, saying that the most anyone got for violating that law was nine weeks in jail: “What’s that?”.]

While there’s nothing new here for anyone who’s been online for more than a day, it’s still interesting to see what these dolts are like in person. I was a bit surprised that Darren Burton’s as much of a douchebag in person as he is online, given the popular notion that most trolls are just cowards with a keyboard, but it nonetheless boils down to the same thing: Trolls are attention-seekers and nothing else. They have zero interest in any real debate or argument – they just like knowing they piss people off. The only way to beat them is to starve them.

(via Techdirt)