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An Englishman has been given 18 weeks in jail for "trolling" on the internet, or making abusive comments. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

An “internet troll” in Britain has been sentenced to 18 weeks in jail after posting derogatory statements about dead people. Sean Duffy, 25, was also banned from using social networking sites.

Man gets jail for bullying the dead

A recent case of internet bullying, or “trolling,” has resulted in a stay in jail for the perpetrator. Sean Duffy, a 25-year-old Englishman, was sentenced to 18 weeks in jail for his Facebook and YouTube activities, according to The Guardian. Duffy was fond of mocking deceased teenagers. He made vicious comments about four deceased individuals since September 2010. He also uploaded videos on YouTube mocking at least two of the deceased people he targeted.

Mocking a suicide victim

One of the instances of “trolling” that put him in the spotlight was when he posted a comment on the Facebook tribute page for Natasha MacBryde. Natasha, 15, committed suicide after being bullied at school and on a social networking site. She was killed when she was struck by a train near her home on Feb. 13, according to the Daily Mail. Duffy posted “I fell asleep on the tracks lolz” on a the page. Several days later, he uploaded a video to YouTube with Natasha’s face superimposed onto the children’s show character “Thomas the Tank Engine” dubbing it “Tasha the Tank Engine.”

Duffy’s targets were strangers

Duffy also created a Facebook group mocking Lauren Drew, a 14-year-old girl who died of complications from an epileptic seizure. Other targets included Hayley Bates, a 16-year-old girl killed in a car crash in September 2010. He created a fake account for Bates, including a photo of flowers placed at the site of her fatal accident with the caption “used car for sale, one useless owner,” according to the Daily Mail. He also targeted Jordan Cooper, a 14-year-old boy whose uncle stabbed him to death in February, with a “tribute” page called “Jordan in pieces.”

Last year, Duffy’s attorney said Duffy suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. Duffy was given an ASBO, or Anti-Social Behavioral Order, banning him from using social networking sites like Facebook for five years. He must notify police if he buys a phone that can access the internet. Duffy did not know any of the people he made comments about.

Trolling has consequences

Others have gone to jail for trolling. Colm Cross of Manchester, U.K., was given 18 weeks last year for comments on tribute pages for Jade Goody, the deceased reality TV celebrity, and John Paul Massey, a young boy killed by a dog, according to the BBC.

In the U.S., prosecuting “cyber bullying” and “cyber stalking” is slightly more difficult. Civil cases have had some success. Jason Fortuny, the man who conducted the notorious “Craigslist experiment,” which elicited and published responses to a fake¬†Craigslist personal ad, was ordered to pay one of his victims $74,252.56, according to CitizenMediaLaw. The state of Louisiana enacted a law in 2010, according to KSLA.com, a Shreveport, La. CBS affiliate, making cyber-bullying a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail.

Sources

The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/sep/13/internet-troll-jailed-mocking-teenagers

Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2036935/Sean-Duffy-Internet-troll-taunted-teenager-deaths-jailed-18-WEEKS.html

BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-11650593

Citizen Media Law: http://www.citmedialaw.org/threats/doe-v-fortuny

KSLA: http://www.ksla.com/story/12785176/cyber-bullying-now-illegal-in-louisiana?redirected=true

 

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