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UK Man Jailed For Being a Jerk On the Internet 898

Posted by Soulskill
from the glad-we-don't-have-any-of-that-here dept.
Xest writes "A man in the UK has been jailed for 18 weeks for 'trolling,' and has also been given an order banning him from using social networking sites for five years. 25-year-old Sean Duffy mocked a dead teenager who had jumped in front a train by posting offensive remarks on a page dedicated to her memory, and creating a YouTube parody of Thomas the Tank with the deceased girl's face in place of Thomas. Is it about time trolling to this extent saw this kind of punishment, or is this punishment simply too harsh for someone who perhaps didn't realize how seriously his actions would be taken by the authorities?" Coverage from the Guardian explains that Duffy pleaded guilty to "two counts of sending malicious communications," and added that he must tell police about any phones he buys that can provide internet access.
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UK Man Jailed For Being a Jerk On the Internet

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  • by igreaterthanu (1942456) * on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:26AM (#37395302)
    From the article (video)

    You will always be found, it's always possibly to trace back to the individual, everything leads a trail, data can always be captured; so we will inevitably get to the bottom of who they are, what they've done, on a site or on a system and be able to prove that in a court of law.

    Even if they can prove a particular machine was used to commit the offence, how will they prove who used it? That isn't even taking into account things such as TOR. I'd go as far as to say he is downright lying.

    Why would they do that?

    • by Anti_Climax (447121) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:36AM (#37395360)

      If they get enough evidence to justify questioning someone as a suspect or person if interest and that person isn't smart enough to shut the fuck up until they have a lawyer to do the talking for them, the authorities will probably get all they need to continue prosecution from there. "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law" is not a concept unique to the United States.

      • by srjh (1316705) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:43AM (#37395390)

        If they get enough evidence to justify questioning someone as a suspect or person if interest and that person isn't smart enough to shut the fuck up until they have a lawyer to do the talking for them, the authorities will probably get all they need to continue prosecution from there. "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law" is not a concept unique to the United States.

        However in the UK, it's more a case of "Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law, and anything you don't say may harm your defence".

        The right to remain silent can be used to make "adverse inferences", unlike the US. So unfortunately "shut the fuck up" doesn't always work too well.

        • by Suferick (2438038)
          There is a difference between keeping quiet when questioned, which can cause inferences to be drawn in court, and refusing to be questioned without your legal rep being present, which cannot.
          • by Chrisq (894406) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @05:27AM (#37396368)

            There is a difference between keeping quiet when questioned, which can cause inferences to be drawn in court, and refusing to be questioned without your legal rep being present, which cannot.

            Actually refusing to answer without a lawyer can be mentioned in court [bailii.org] but the jury should be directed that under normal circumstances no inference of intent or guilt should be made. Abnormal circumstances are when the time itself may affect the outcome of the crime or interfere with evidence, such as if there is a bomb set to go off imminently or a critically injured victim at an unknown location.

        • by jo_ham (604554) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (999mahoj)> on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @04:02AM (#37395876)

          To be accurate, the phrase is "it may harm your defence if, when questioned, you do not mention something you later rely on in court".

          It's not just a simple "he didn't say anything, so he's clearly guilty".

        • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @04:11AM (#37395926)

          If they get enough evidence to justify questioning someone as a suspect or person if interest and that person isn't smart enough to shut the fuck up until they have a lawyer to do the talking for them, the authorities will probably get all they need to continue prosecution from there. "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law" is not a concept unique to the United States.

          However in the UK, it's more a case of "Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law, and anything you don't say may harm your defence". The right to remain silent can be used to make "adverse inferences", unlike the US. So unfortunately "shut the fuck up" doesn't always work too well.

          Incorrect. In the US, your testimony counts as evidence for the prosecution, hearsay for the defence. Anything you say can be used against you in America, never for you. In the UK, your testimony has equal weight for both prosecution and defence. ("Anything you say can be used as evidence.") If you bring up some mitigating evidence during trial which you should have mentioned during questioning, that can cause issues for your defence ("It may harm your defence if you fail to mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court.")

          In any case, your appropriate response to being placed under arrest is "I'm sorry, Officer. I do not understand the legal consequences involved in being under arrest. I will need to speak to a solicitor before I can answer any of your questions." If it's a minor offence, you can probably get advice over the phone. If it's serious, insist that they be present for interview.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Chelmet (1273754)
            Believe it or not, its slightly different in Scotland.

            There is no "It may harm your defence if you fail to mention...". Up here, you're perfectly within your rights to, and cannot be punished for, remaining completely silent till your lawyer arrives.

            • It is the same in the UK. You have a right to legal representation during interview while under arrest, and you can (and should) remain silent until that point. The "...fail to mention when questioned..." part is to prevent fabrication of an alibi while on bail. If you are released pending trial, you have time to talk to others to bring about a story to cover yourself, which you would then present at trial. Obviously this is A Bad Thing, so they changed the spiel.
        • However in the UK, it's more a case of "Anything you say will be used against you in a court of law, and anything you don't say may harm your defence".

          It's actually more subtle. Firstly, it's "anything you say can be used in evidence", which makes a lot mroe sense than "anything you say can and will be used against you" which is clearly nonsense.

          Secondly, it's "it _may_ harm your defense if you fail to answer when questioned anything you later rely on in court".

          In other words, you do have the right to remai

    • From the article (video)

      You will always be found, it's always possibly to trace back to the individual, everything leads a trail, data can always be captured; so we will inevitably get to the bottom of who they are, what they've done, on a site or on a system and be able to prove that in a court of law.

      Even if they can prove a particular machine was used to commit the offence, how will they prove who used it? That isn't even taking into account things such as TOR. I'd go as far as to say he is downright lying.

      Why would they do that?

      Obviously that's not true, rather probably somebody trying to scare people from even starting such idiocy. Unfortunately it will probably just cause people wanting to troll to look into methods for hiding their traces.

      However for trolling on something like facebook, using tor would probably not be sufficient. They will probably be using a lot of fingerprinting techniques to identify the computer the user is connecting from, not just the IP address. It would probably not be very hard to link a fake account

    • Even if they can prove a particular machine was used to commit the offence, how will they prove who used it? That isn't even taking into account things such as TOR. I'd go as far as to say he is downright lying.

      They just have to prove it "beyond reasonable doubt". Enough proof to convince a jury that he should be convicted. If there is a particular computer, and he's the only person living there, that is beyond reasonable doubt. If there are other people, and they make witness statements about computer use and things he said, that is beyond reasonable doubt. And believe me, if I knew that anyone in my household had done this kind of thing, I would say that a few weeks in jail will serve them an important lesson.

    • by igb (28052) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:17AM (#37395636)
      They don't need to prove anything: he pleaded guilty. The chances of an alcoholic with Asberger's being a master cyber-criminal are approximately zero, especially as he had been suspected of being a long-term troll elsewhere http://forums.readingfestival.com/m995896-print.aspx [readingfestival.com].

      To those that ask whether in UK law the same behaviour would have had the same reaction were a computer not involved, the likelihood is "yes". There was a recent case in which a very stupid woman decided that shouting "bang! bang!" to a policeman who had been blinded in a high-profile shoot-out was amusing http://www.capitalfm.com/northeast/on-air/news-travel/local-news/sunderland-woman-faces-jail-shouting-abuse-moat-vi/ [capitalfm.com]. She was extremely lucky not to get a substantial jail sentence, but there was no suggestion that it was part of a long-term or deliberate scheme (she hadn't, for example, travelled to find him with the intent of shouting "bang!"). In this case, it clearly was not the spur of the moment or impulse: you can't make a custom video for the purpose of being obnoxious in a moment of madness. And the chances are the Duffy would have been too much of a coward to do it face to face anyway: it was precisely because he thought he was untouchable that he did it.

      The argument that people who leave open tribute pages should expect to be trolled is the sort of sociopathic nonsense we can expect from geeks. People had front gardens without barbed wire fences, but don't expect people to shit on the middle of the lawn. In fact, one reason why a heavy cluestick needs to be wielded at tossers like Duffy is precisely that they are willing to behave with a computer in a way they (probably) wouldn't in real life, and the idea that somehow things done online aren't real --- which was part of his "oh, it's my Asberger's" plea in mitigation --- needs to be stamped on.

      • by VoidCrow (836595) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:42AM (#37395756)

        > The argument that people who leave open tribute pages should expect to be trolled is the sort of sociopathic nonsense we can expect from geeks.

        No, it's the sort of sociopathic nonsense we can expect from borderline or actual sociopaths, or those people who lack the maturity and social awareness to think through the drivel that issues from any available orifice.

        Before issuing said drivel...

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by smisle (1640863)
          People might not usually shit on their neighbor's lawns, but they sure as hell let their dogs do it, which amounts to the same thing.
        • I agree with you, people should be able to leave an memorial page open for anyone to post. I also agree with the people who say that anyone who does so is stupidly naive. Just because I think they're foolish for leaving the page open for anyone to post doesn't mean that I agree with the trolls, it just means that I'm aware that trolls exist and will be ass-hats.

          If someone leaves their keys in their car and the car gets stolen, most people tend to say "What an asshole to steal someone's car, but you really s

      • by Cederic (9623) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:58AM (#37395840) Journal

        She was extremely lucky not to get a substantial jail sentence

        It may just be me, but jailing someone for shouting "bang! bang!" would be more offensive than the acting of shouting it at a blinded policeman.

        Similarly, in this case, 18 weeks in prison (or even 9, with good behaviour) for "posting messages on Facebook and Youtube"? He could have assaulted the parents and got less. He could have burgled their homes during the funeral and got less. 18 weeks for merely upsetting someone is excessive, particularly for a first conviction.

        Shit, I must be due a few decades, I piss people off online all the time. Freedom of expression has to include the freedom to offend people, or it's no freedom at all.

        • by Tim C (15259)
          A salient fact that the OP omitted to mention is that the policeman in question was walking in to a court to give evidence in a case against two men accused of aiding and abetting the man who blinded him (which he did while on a rampage with a gun, injuring and killing several other people before dying in a stand-off with police). More details on the BBC news website [bbc.co.uk].

          In that case, I suspect at least part of the reason behind the sentence was because she (unintentionally) interfered with the case; the pen
        • by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @05:34AM (#37396394)

          Freedom of expression has to include the freedom to offend people, or it's no freedom at all.

          Freedom of expression is not absolute; for example slander and libel are forbidden. Why would someone intentionally abusing his freedoms to hurt others not be punished? Surely the purpose of law is not to give cover to psychopaths as they prey on the weak?

          • by Cwix (1671282)

            He hurt someones feelings.

            Thats not exactly a crime AFAIK. Maybe people will learn to keep things private online. If you open everything up to the wider internet, thats going to come with the good and the bad.

            My response: Deal with it, or make it a private page.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Thing 1 (178996)

            Surely the purpose of law is not to give cover to psychopaths as they prey on the weak?

            Oh, I don't know about that. We have many laws making audio recording of interactions with public officials illegal. Of course; those audio recordings could help to show wrongdoing by those public officials. What other reason would they want to have no evidence of their actions, which evidence could exonerate them?

            Similarly, there seems to be a distressingly high rate of failure, during critical times, of the officers' dash cameras. Personally I see this as destruction of evidence, but then IA apparen

        • by ifiwereasculptor (1870574) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @06:43AM (#37396716)

          Rowan Atkinson actually said something very interesting about it (he was, at the time, talking about the right to mock religion):

          "It all points to the promotion of the idea that there should be a right not to be offended. But in my view the right to offend is far more important than any right not to be offended. The right to ridicule is far more important to society than any right not to be ridiculed because one in my view represents openness - and the other represents oppression." ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1478381/Atkinson-defends-right-to-offend.html [telegraph.co.uk] )

          Going to jail for being unfunny and/or crass is a little extreme (and impractical - we'd need more land that we can spare to house the entirety of 4chan and a plethora of talk show hosts). Also, why should we be able to mock Michael Jackson's death but not a random passerby's? It doesn't cause anyone close to him less grief just because he was a public figure. Which, by the way, anyone who appears in the news once or has a Facebook profile/shrine seems to be, to varying extents, in the web 2.0. Ask Antoine Dodson (or Natasha MacBryde herself, if you happen to have an Ouija board).

          • by igb (28052) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @08:11AM (#37397296)
            Rowan Atkinson believes in having the right to offend, so long as he's not the one being offended. He reaches for the libel courts (see here) [bbc.co.uk] and secures a five-figure payout for things that are "ludicrous, hurtful and irresponsible" being written about him. If they're ludicrous, no-one will believe them. How can being hurtful be grounds for a libel action, when he says that other people don't have the right to be hurt?
            • by anyGould (1295481) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @12:00PM (#37399814)

              I don't think there's a parallel here - Atkinson's court case related to a newspaper publishing articles containing falsehoods that would actively harm his career. (Reading the article, it was that he was suffering mental illness, having to take time off from acting, his family was afraid for his life). And not a word of it was true. (Also worth mentioning that he donated his "payout" to mental health agencies).

              I don't know if jail time was the appropriate response for 1st degree Trolling - getting kicked off the internet strikes me as a far more appropriate punishment.

      • by Xest (935314) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @04:08AM (#37395910)

        "The argument that people who leave open tribute pages should expect to be trolled is the sort of sociopathic nonsense we can expect from geeks."

        I'm the person (or one of at least) who submitted the story and posed the question as to whether it is right or wrong. Whilst I agree it's disgusting what he did the reason I pose the question is because I think there's a fair argument that trolls are an inevitable side effect of a free and open internet. I am not convinced that if we allow a clamp down on trolling that we can really continue to have an expectation of a free and open internet- I think it's a genuinely dangerous slippery slope.

        So geeks saying they should expect it are probably not being as sociopathic as you suggest, but are merely making the point that it's a side effect of how the internet always has been, and hopefully, IMO, always will be.

        It starts with blatantly offensive trolls like this sure, and few people care, but what if it then jumps to people not trolling per-se but having a heated argument if one complains that insults stemming from that argument are trolling? What if it jumps to fanboys slagging off or making up false accusations about some product and companies claim they're being trolled? Can we realistically expect the police to be a competent judge of what "trolling" is acceptable, and what "trolling" isn't - and in fact, what even constitutes trolling? In the BBC article their expert uses the example of someone posting on Apple forums negative comments about Apple or it's products trolling with the hope of winding people up. But how do you tell if they did so to wind people up, or if he did so because his Apple product really has failed and he's pissed off?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by gutnor (872759)

          I think it's a genuinely dangerous slippery slope.

          Let's not exaggerate too much. The UK and the US are free and open societies, and yet there are law that prevent you to use your freedom to abuse somebody else's. That is the foundation of society and community to behave in some sort of acceptable way together.

          We have to keep in mind, that each geek online is the equivalent in the physical world equivalent of a king living in a castle with an army at his disposal. Of course, we don't feel the need (or even resent) stuff like police and laws.

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        If he had attended the funeral or memorial service of the person involved and said those sorts of things out loud, I think he would have got a much longer sentence. This isn't like the US where the Westboro Baptist Church are allowed to do such things as protected free speech.

    • by Elbereth (58257) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:34AM (#37395712) Journal

      It's a lot easier than you think. Every once in a while, a multinational task force will take down a child porn, warez, or credit card fraud group that is renowned for their paranoia and skill, just to remind people that they can do it. In many cases, encryption and tunneling don't actually increase the difficulty of the investigation but end up merely creating more paperwork, as the necessary court orders are acquired. You're a fool if you think that the VPN, anonymous proxy, or TOR node won't turn over their log files when the government comes knocking, with a warrant. What if they don't keep any logs? Yeah, that's a possibility, which does make everything quite a bit more difficult, but that's outright illegal in some jurisdictions, and even in libertarian utopias, the authorities take a very dim view of that. If I were the government, I'd even set up a few honeypots like that (which is probably how they catch some of the more paranoid types). Even if you know that you can trust the founder, can you trust every single employee who has physical access to the hardware? It's 2011 -- I wouldn't be surprised if the government had some moles in such places, though maybe I'm the one who's on the paranoid side now.

      No matter how secure or anonymous you think you are, it's only a matter of time before you're hacked or tracked. I think history has proven this. The best you can do is make use of best practices and hope that your opponents are incompetent. In most cases, people are incompetent, on both sides of the law.

      And... please. While an IP address doesn't resolve to a person, it's pretty damning evidence that your hardware was used for the crime. I know about the cases where someone hacks into a wireless AP and leeches child porn, but the people who are hacked generally are not leet haxors with the skill to engage in online crime. Running a completely open AP (or TOR exit node), in order to give yourself plausible deniability, is not generally accepted as a defense in court. Jurors don't respond well to arrogant, obvious plans like that, even if you truly are a saint who runs a free and open wireless AP (hint: don't do that, unless you're a fine, upstanding corporation who contributes to the community).

      I'm not saying whether the government should have the power to track people so easily, but, in most cases, they do. It's not like the government has no clue about TOR, anonymous proxies, VPNs, etc. This isn't 1990, when the cops didn't have a single computer in their station, and there was one person at the FBI who had an AOL account. Really, they know about this stuff, and it's a part of their investigation. Thinking that you're the one mastermind criminal who's never going to be caught, despite his daring string of crimes, is a bit of a cliche...

      • by Woy (606550)
        TOR log files? You don't know how TOR works. Restrain from giving advice.
      • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo @ w orld3.net> on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @08:03AM (#37397230) Homepage

        You're a fool if you think that the ... TOR node won't turn over their log files when the government comes knocking, with a warrant.

        What good would logs do? The whole point of TOR is that there is no way to know where a packet passing through a node is coming from because it will have passed through other unknown nodes as well.

        TOR is extremely effective if used properly. The whole point is to prevent authorities from monitoring or tracing people who use it, so that in countries where free speech is dangerous there can be some protection. At best an attacker could figure out that a lot of encrypted traffic was coming from your net connection and then raid your house in the hopes of finding evidence on the computer itself, but as long as you use a live CD and ensure they can't get to it before incriminating data is wiped from RAM all they can do is lean on you. Obviously in some places that alone is enough, but in the UK we don't torture people (they are sent abroad for that).

  • by Roland Piquepaille (780675) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:28AM (#37395314)

    That's just despicable...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:34AM (#37395344)

    mocked a dead teenager who had jumped in front a train by posting offensive remarks on a page dedicated to her memory, and creating a YouTube parody of Thomas the Tank with the deceased girl's face in place of Thomas

    It's Thomas the Tank Engine, not Thomas the Tank. How would it make any sense it make a parody of her as a tank?

    • by Hatta (162192)

      How does it make any sense for her to be a tank engine? What does the engine of a tank even look like? Now if the parody had involved a locomotive, that would have made sense.

  • by Omnifarious (11933) * <eric-slash&omnifarious,org> on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:34AM (#37395346) Homepage Journal

    This is a problem best solved with a severe (but non-fatal and non-permanently injurious) beating by one of the family members of the victim. That punishment is both less harsh and likely much more effective than having your activity on the Internet be severely restricted and monitored for years on end.

    I've encountered people willing to do this kind of thing before. They seem to think that everything that happens on the Internet is just a harmless game and that anybody who's feelings are hurt is just being overly sensitive and deserves the pain caused. Some in-person exposure to the raw emotions this kind of nastiness creates is probably the surest antidote.

    • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:46AM (#37395406)

      Exactly. If anyone disagrees with what you say, they should be beaten until they understand! That'll prove that you're not being overly sensitive!

      • by roc97007 (608802)

        One of the interesting things about living in a culture (or microculture) where physical response is absolutely forbidden, (say, certain college campuses) is that the inhabitants tend to be really rude and emotionally abusive. Because they know they can get away with it.

        • I'd rather have that (assuming that it's even true) than people getting into fist fights because of a mere disagreement.

        • One of the interesting things about living in a culture (or microculture) where physical response is absolutely forbidden, (say, certain college campuses) is that the inhabitants tend to be really rude and emotionally abusive. Because they know they can get away with it.

          Does this "finding" hold when you are talking about, say, a monastery? After all, if you need some physical action, getting out of campus to get it is easier than getting out of the monastery.

          It sounds more likely than the issue "human teens are more aggressive as a way to get influence in their group. When they are conditionated not to resort to physical violence, they use emotional abuse (or just break social rules to show they are beyond them).".

      • Sady you are spot on. People want freedom of speach, but only as it offends someone else.

        Besides that I find the laws in the UK increasingly a joke.

        IMHO the guy is a royal jerk. Was it offensive what he did? Yes! Rude? Yes! Immoral? Yes! But it is his right.
        In this case I say it us up to you and I to decide not to listen to him. As long as people like this think there are other people willing to listen to his drivel, they will do it.
        It is like a child that cries wolf. As long as it gets attention, it will c

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Strangely, that's the same problem that thousands of battered women face every day.

      • by MrHanky (141717)

        True, that would be terrible. They should fight speech with speech, and put up posters all over his neighbourhood accusing him of being a pedophile.

    • by roc97007 (608802) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:02AM (#37395528) Journal

      It looks like that may be meant partly in jest, but it's actually brilliant.

      I was having a conversation just tonight at dinner with my daughter that relates somewhat. One of her classmates is struggling with an almost complete lack of empathy, but hasn't yet become a full blown sociopath, although on the verge of adulthood. When he does something that hurts others, he often doesn't mean it, he truly doesn't understand (in her opinion) the hurt he's caused. (Geeks often share this affliction to a lesser degree.) Her solution, when he hurts someone, is to hurt him back. Hurt his feelings if that's called for, or hurt him physically if it's appropriate. Then she talks to him about it, drawing out how he felt about the experience, and drawing parallels with the damage he caused. I'm not a psychologist, dunno if this could possibly do any good, but she insists that he hesitates now before committing an action, and you can see him thinking through possible consequences. I'm really not sure what conclusions to draw from this. I think in the case of the article outright over-the-top intent to cause emotional harm should be met with some action, but I'm not sure simply confining him in a cage for a given amount of time does any good. That might be a different conversation, though.

      • by VoidCrow (836595)

        It's an interesting idea. The sticking point is the fact that it requires someone with a great deal of emotional insight and patience to administer the feedback. If it were translated into a mass-market counselling context, it could get a little ugly. I think it's the right solution, given the right circumstances and the right people, but the prospect of it being incorporated into someone's grab-bag of shamanistic panaceas is kind of frightening.

      • "Polite Society" only exists because of the evolutionary imperative to avoid pain. If you break society's rules, sooner or later, you go one step too far and get punched in the mouth. In our overly PC society we seem to have forgotten that this is a tremendously effective, tried and tested method of behavior modification.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    There are issues of free speech here. But having said that though I think that anyone behaving like that gets all they deserve. Making flippant or inflamatory comments on forums is one thing, being offensive and posting 'hate-speech' needs to be punished. It'd be the same if he'd sprayed grafitti on a gravestone.

    • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:48AM (#37395414)

      I'm highly offended by your comment. You need to be put in jail!

      It'd be the same if he'd sprayed grafitti on a gravestone.

      Except that he didn't actually vandalize anyone's property...

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mattventura (1408229)

        Exactly. I'm not a UK law expert, but if he said offensive things to the person's face, what would the punishment be? I'm tired of punishments being much worse due to the fact that a computer was involved.

        Also, they need to learn a bit more about the internet. I didn't RTFA, but it appears that the memorial page had an open comment section and they expected it to not get trolled. It doesn't matter who is in the right here, but that's an unreasonable expectation. If they don't want bad comments, then modera

        • that's an unreasonable expectation

          No, respect for the dead is not an unreasonable expectation, but in a world full of arseholes it is a naive one.

        • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@nosPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @04:04AM (#37395890) Homepage

          Also, they need to learn a bit more about the internet. I didn't RTFA, but it appears that the memorial page had an open comment section and they expected it to not get trolled. It doesn't matter who is in the right here, but that's an unreasonable expectation. If they don't want bad comments, then moderate them before letting them appear on the page.

          Translation "I blame the victim".
           

          Car analogy: pedestrians have the right of way. That doesn't mean you should try to walk across a 6 lane road with heavy traffic.

          Bad analogy (pedestrians don't always have the right of way). Better analogy: It doesn't matter whether your door is locked or unlocked, it's still wrong for someone to enter and spray graffiti on the walls.

      • by Sparx139 (1460489)
        Agreed. It's more like these guys [godhatesfags.com], except not bat-shit crazy.
    • by chrismcb (983081) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:54AM (#37395464) Homepage

      being offensive and posting 'hate-speech' needs to be punished

      Really? Offensive to whom? Who decides what is 'hate-speech'? You should have a right to hate someone, and have the right to proclaim your hatred.

      • by anyGould (1295481)

        being offensive and posting 'hate-speech' needs to be punished

        Really? Offensive to whom? Who decides what is 'hate-speech'? You should have a right to hate someone, and have the right to proclaim your hatred.

        And here's the rub. If this guy had *known* the women, then you can say it's free speech, it's speaking an opinion, it's telling the truth... there are lots of valid defenses I can think of to saying something at a memorial that could be considered "offensive".

        This guy didn't know any of the girls he was commenting on. He's just making shit up, specifically to *get* the reaction. This, in my mind, removes most of the "freedom of speech" defenses. To use your example, you can't legitimately hate someone you

  • > he must tell police about any phones he buys that can provide internet access.

    Duffy called the local constabulary: "Sure it looks like an iPhone, but on the inside the Galaxy S is a web-browsing, media-playing beast of a smartphone, and one of the best Android phones available!"
    The constable listened with interest, thanked Duffy, hung up then hopped on to Google to order one. He mused "I didn't really understand the point of that court order, but it's certainly useful!"

    In other news CuteSteveJobs
  • > or is this punishment simply too harsh for someone who perhaps didn't realize how seriously his actions would be taken by the authorities?"

    Well, he does NOW.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @02:52AM (#37395444)

    I can see how this is morally wrong. But how is it criminal?

    • by Gordonjcp (186804)

      In the UK, we have two classes of offence, civil offences and criminal offences. Now, civil offences are generally not terribly serious things; a speeding ticket won't get you a criminal record, it'll get you a £60 fine and an endorsement on your licence for four years. However, 30mph over the posted speed limit is frequently prosecuted as "dangerous driving" which is a criminal offence.

      TL;DR - it's all a matter of degree. It's perfectly legal in the UK to be a dick to someone, but not to the

    • Morality has always been embodied in law. We just usually distinguish between the kinds of morality we can safely disagree about and still run a society, and the kinds of morality that, in practice at least, are not really up for discussion. I have to say, his behavior, for me, veers to the latter. I feel freer knowing that someone who trolls a tribute page for a deceased loved one will be punished than I would knowing that I was free to troll tribute pages for other peoples' deceased loved ones.

    • by tehcyder (746570) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @06:44AM (#37396722) Journal

      I can see how this is morally wrong. But how is it criminal?

      It's criminal because it contravened a criminal law on the statute books. And it is a criminal law on the statute books because society has decided that such offences are seriously anti-social enough to warrant punishment.

  • Really? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xenobyte (446878)

    Prison time for trolling?

    Now, trolling takes many forms, of which cyberbullying is just one (small one actually). Most trolling is harmless and fun - FTA's example of Apple-bashing in an Apple forum is typical. It harms nobody except filling up the forum with off-topic messages. Good moderators can curb this quickly and no harm is done.

    Going after people though... Doesn't have to be cyberbullying and when it isn't, it also can be fun and mostly harmless. But the border between deeply hurtful and just fun is

    • Your comment offends me. Please pay me restitution.

      Does the UK not have an equivalent of the first amendment or something?

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mvdwege (243851) <mvdwege@mail.com> on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:04AM (#37395546) Homepage Journal

      I'm always surprised that in these discussion someone always turns up to find excuses for twits like Sean Duffy.

      What he did was harassment, and that's a crime everywhere. That it's happening via the Internet is irrelevant here.

      And as for intent: if you go as far as he did, to deny that there was intent to harass becomes just plain silly.

      Mart

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:05AM (#37395558)

      That really comes down to whether or not prison is an adequate deterrent for a wide variety of crimes. I'm finding it hard to muster up any sympathy for this genius though, I mean if he was calling them up on the phone with caller ID blocked, making nasty comments about the dead kid, nobody would have any doubts about whether or not he should be imprisoned. He comes across as a vicious, sadistic coward. Just because it's the internet doesn't make it different.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:08AM (#37395576)

      Prison time for trolling?

      First off, he didn't get time for simple anonymous trolling as happens everyday here on trolldot. He targeted the families and friends of the deceased specifically, that demonstrates a clear malicious intent. Lets remove the Internet from the current scenario, say he mailed hateful letters to the family, played that YouTube video on TV et al. It's the same thing minus the Internet and we'd call that stalking.

      Secondly, this is the UK govt over-reacting. Since the recent riots they've been taking every oportunity to prove they are "tough on crime" in an attempt to make it look like they aren't letting the real perpetrators of the riot get away (because finding evidence and trying them would be hard and going after people who post stupid things on facebook is easy). Yes this guy is a dick, a complete dick who deserves some jail time and community service but that's it.

      So dearest Australians and Americans, read the above paragraph and remember in 2012, conservatives don't fix problems, at best they don't create new ones.

      • by malkavian (9512)

        Except this isn't an overreaction. He got off pretty lightly for harassment, possibly stalking and a whole boat load of antisocial activity that would have earned him the time, AND a thorough kicking if he'd done it in person.
        Last I checked, this was nothing to do with Conservative/Labour/Lib-Dem, and everything to do with a court of law.

    • Your idea of fun is pretty weird.

      I suppose this debate will always be split amongst those who think this kind of stuff is fun and those who don't.

      Maybe we should examine your history and see if we can have some fun with that. If you are not just full of shit you will post your full personal details here or even better on 4chan.

      Oh, not fun when it is happening to you? Then it ain't just fun.

      • Ok, then do not see it in as a comic expression but a moral one.

        What about making a point against suicide? Certain cultures did have actions against suicides (cancelling the deceased's last will, burial in "shameful" parts of the cementery -or not burial at all-, etc.)

        While I respect anyone's meditated, reasoned decision to end theirs life, and I understand the relatives'feelings, I do not find giving suicides (or crimes) too much notoriety of good taste. In the bottom line, it may even encourage "attention

  • It's similar to the Muhammad cartoons: Somebody makes fun about a dead guy, offending people who care deeply about that guy. So if those cartoons are considered Free Speech the same should apply here. Even more so because here we hurt maybe a few dozen people, with Muhammad it was many millions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TapeCutter (624760)
      There's a vast difference between the parody of a long dead religious figure and personal harassment of the living, if you can't see it then I feel sorry for you.
  • by radio4fan (304271) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:03AM (#37395536)

    ...or is this punishment simply too harsh for someone who perhaps didn't realize how seriously his actions would be taken by the authorities?

    Considering that he was a serial offender, and had received an official caution from the police in 2009 for a similar offence, it seems unlikely that he didn't realize how seriously his actions would be taken.

    If he'd done a similar thing by post [legislation.gov.uk], he'd still be going to prison.

  • by F69631 (2421974) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:04AM (#37395552)

    I can't wait for the people who'll come howling about censorship... which this wasn't.

    If the guy would have punched the dead child's father, we would all be happy with throwing him to jail... for a good reason. We, as a society, have decided something along these lines: "If you cause other people harm and pain for no other reason than your personal amusement, you should be punished". We've then coded that principle to a more formal set of laws as well as we can. If you can cause other people just as much harm by impersonating their dead daughter as you could by punching them in the face, why treat it differently? Just because it's "on the internet" doesn't mean that the same principles and laws shouldn't apply.

    I know that in USA there is a concept of "Free speech!" and some people are willing to chant about that like a mantra. In most of Europe, we don't think that everything that comes out of your mouth is sacred. For example, the constitution of my country doesn't contain anything about "Free speech" but instead states that people have the "freedom of opinion, expression and assembly". That is because we think that we want to punish pricks like in this story but we still want to prevent government from squashing unwanted political movements, etc... So, our constitution protects civil rights in a way that doesn't much apply to cases like this. Sure, you can use the slippery slope fallacy, but history shows that it hasn't realized here any more than it has in the USA (despite the "free speech" law).

    It's even more complex than that. In USA, there is some sort of a mentality of "Government vs. the People". Even your constitution is designed to limit the government's authority. In Europe, government is seen as a tool of the people. For example, our constitution doesn't say that government can't prevent us from expressing our opinions... it says that government must protect our right to express our opinions if other people try to prevent us from doing so. So I can see why many americans might be saying "Ah! This is a private affair! Government isn't required to interfere in stuff like this so it shouldn't" while mindset of the population (though not necessarily the SlashDot population) on this side of the pond is "This is just the kind of stuff that we designed our government for". So it's a different philosophy between different cultures.

    Ah... Why do I even try. We all know that roughly 25% of the comments will be nothing more than "But fascists are squashing FREE SPEECH here!"...

    • by cheekyjohnson (1873388) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:12AM (#37395604)

      I can't wait for the people who'll come howling about censorship... which this wasn't.

      Just because the speech was illegal or "offensive" in some peoples' opinions, that does not mean it isn't censorship to censor and/or punish him for saying it.

      We, as a society

      Certainly not me. Perhaps most people.

      If you can cause other people just as much harm by impersonating their dead daughter as you could by punching them in the face, why treat it differently?

      In my opinion, it's because whether it harms them or not is completely up to them. You don't have to be "overly sensitive" or be offended by anything you see.

      That said, I'm highly offended by your entire post. It harmed me as much as it would have if you would have punched me! Therefore, you should be thrown in jail.

      • That said, I'm highly offended by your entire post. It harmed me as much as it would have if you would have punched me! Therefore, you should be thrown in jail.

        Indeed. As a member of the "NOOOO! Censorship!" crowd, his denigration of that ethnic group was both personally injurious and socially destructive. I will not be able to recover for days if not weeks. F69631 needs to pay for the harm he's done.

      • Respect for the dead, especially loved ones, and the sensitivity that comes with that, is essential to human societies. The kind of thick-skinnedness you're calling for is neither desirable nor realistic, and I believe most people - those who aren't so alienated and misanthropic to not recognize it - would much rather prosecute people like the troll than have such an absolutist doctrine of "speech."

        • Respect for the dead, especially loved ones, and the sensitivity that comes with that, is essential to human societies.

          I disagree. These people are dead. I needn't respect them at all. Nor do I think you need sensitivity for society to function.

          The kind of thick-skinnedness you're calling for is neither desirable nor realistic

          It's both desirable and realistic to me.

          and I believe most people

          What most people want is irrelevant to me. I only care if I think they (or something) has a point.

          • You don't need to respect the dead. But, to a certain point, you need to respect other peoples' respect for the dead.

            You don't understand, at all, the role of affect in human society and social cohesion. You may be autistic, in which case, I pity you,

            Essentially, you will lose this cultural war in almost any arena you fight it. And I think that's a good thing.

            • You don't need to respect the dead. But, to a certain point, you need to respect other peoples' respect for the dead.

              There are many out there who respect the late Osama Bin Laden, and I'll be damned if I have to respect their respect for his death. In fact I'd take a shit on his grave if he was buried in one.

              Good thing I don't live in the UK, otherwise I'd go to jail for that.

        • Respect for the dead, especially loved ones, and the sensitivity that comes with that, is essential to human societies.

          No, it's not. Fred Phelps, Sr. is somebody's loved one, but I reserve the right to smugly welcome his eventual passing and to publicly state that I hope any afterlife of his involves being tormented by gay and lustful demons. Someone who earned no respect in life doesn't magically garner it in dying, and the fact that someone may care about them and mourn their death doesn't change that.

    • You don't really know much about the US. The first amendment of the US constitution states:

      Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

      In other words, congress itself shall not set any rules abridging speech, but the individual states may. However we have judicial review and case law

      • we remain the worlds strongest nation in terms of culture, military, economy, and global influence.

        Do all Chinese write English as excellently as you?

  • really?! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by CobaltBlueDW (899284)

    Is this really a criminal offense?! It seems to fly in the face a free speech. I know the UK and the US don't see completely eye-to-eye on free speech issues, and the UK is more likely to have these kind of pandering laws, but still... I could understand a lawsuit for defamation of character or some such thing, but not a criminal charge. If "sending malicious communications" is really a legal matter, than almost everyone posting in this thread is breaking the law. Is our society really in favor of such

    • Re:really?! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AK Marc (707885) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @03:25AM (#37395668)
      Why? If someone speaks with the intent to harm, why should that be allowed? It wasn't opinion. It wasn't censoring expression. It was stopping a person who knew he was causing harm from continuing to cause harm. What, everyone should be a Vulcan? We should aspire to be uninsultable and inhuman.
  • Trolling is when you provoke a large group of people with general offensive behaviour and/or opinions.

    This is something entirely different, this is a methodical psychological attack on someone who just lost a relative.

    I believe that 18 weeks of jail is not unreasonable in the states for doing the equivalent of kicking someone in the nuts when they have fallen over.
    While laughing.
    And filming it.
    And showing it to their friends.

    This is what was done here.

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @05:31AM (#37396380)
    I see the Rule of Law is making good progress on Airstrip One.
  • by clickclickdrone (964164) on Wednesday September 14, 2011 @05:42AM (#37396442)
    A friend on Facebook was distraught to find out that when his young niece died last year, someone set up a page on Facebook which was basically him and about a dozen others posting messages about her about her body, sex life and other really abusive sick stuff. They apparantly used to do this any time they found out about some recently deceased FB user, this was by no means the first or last. They did bother to find out about her, career etc and used that info to personalise the abuse making it far worse. FB took weeks to shut it down and in the end my friend entered a period of depression about the whole sick saga.

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