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September 18, 2012updated 20 Sep 2012 5:49pm

MP claims internet trolls ‘totally dominate’ local newspaper websites

By Andrew Pugh

A Labour MP has claimed that internet trolls now “totally dominate” local newspaper websites.

Graham Jones was speaking at a Parliamentary debate highlighting the growing issue of internet trolls and “RIP trolling” in particular, in which anonymous users leave comments mocking the dead on social networks and newspaper websites.

The MP for Hyndburn said: “It seems that local newspapers now cannot have an online discussion or commentary following an article on their websites because trolls will totally dominate and post page after page of abuse, which means other people just switch off.

“I do not know whether that is my honourable friend’s experience, but it is certainly mine.”

Fellow Labour MP Steve Rotheram, who secured the adjournment debate, replied: “I have experienced and identified that when reading the comments beneath an article.

“It is not about people having extreme views; it is about the posting of really offensive, disgusting and vile comments that shock people. That sort of thing is prevalent in online discussions.”

Rotheram said there was now a “much greater scrutiny of the laws that govern” the practice and punishment of trolling, adding: “The starting point must be to see how we can improve the way trolling is prevented, policed and punished.

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“That would be preferable to trying to get Parliament to act, as the wheels of justice turn slowly.”

He added: “Part of the problem is that a degree of professionalism is associated with some trolls that might be too sophisticated for our laws to combat in their current guise.

“The relevant legislation on this matter predates the birth of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, which were not launched until 2004 and 2006 respectively. In fact, since becoming actively involved in this issue, I have increasingly come to understand that the law surrounding trolling is a minefield.”

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