The 2 Definitions of a Troll and the Tragic Death of Brenda Leyland

By Rob  |  9 Oct 2014, 01:00pm  |  Category: Social Media

On Saturday, October 4th, 2014, an exposed 'Troll' was found dead in a hotel room in Leicester. The 'Troll' Brenda Leyland was exposed the previous Thursday by @SkyNews as one of the Twitter 'Trolls' sending abuse to the McCann family.

For those of you not aware the McCanns' daughter, Maddie, went missing in 2007 while on Holiday in Portugal. The McCanns have worked tirelessly but Maddie has never been found and there are no explanations of what happened. Questions have dogged the McCanns for years in relation to their involvement and conspiracy therioes have developed and evolved.

Brenda Leyland was a proponent of these theories. As BuzzFeed show she tweeted regularly on the topic under the handle @sweepyface using the hashtag #McCann. There can be little doubt that some of these messages, or even many of them, would have caused the McCanns distress.

However there does not seem to be any sign that she was threatening or even rude. She simply criticised and questioned the McCanns' version of events. For me, and on this basis, I simply can't define Brenda Leyland as a Troll and she should never have been hounded by the media. Yes you could descibe her as odd, misguided or even obsessive or unwell, but not a Troll.

Highprofile cases such as Peter Nunn and Stella Creasy MP are making us over sensitive to Trolls. You could even say hysterical. This issue has been hightened because for the first time celebrities and public figures are directly exposed via social media to the people who love them and -- importantly -- loathe them.

The idolatry bubble has burst and many high profile figures don't like it. So we now live in a world where there is a Troll hidden around every corner, down every dark alley and behind every bush... We are beginning to conflate criticism with personal attacks and we forget that offence is purely subjective.

This is causing us to throw around the term Troll carelessly and in the case of Brenda Leyland tragically. It is time we put trolling into perspective. Social Networks are generally a very good place to be -- dynamic, constructive and friendly -- we should remember that. A more sensible definition of a Troll would be based around two points...

  1. They are directly rude.
  2. They make direct personal threats.

This would clearly seperate cases like Brenda Leyland from the likes of Peter Nunn who are actual Trolls. In addition the authorities should only involve themselves if point 2 is breached.

I hope we can begin to add some perspective to the subject of trolling, it's just very sad that it took a balls-up by @SkyNews and a death to highlight this issue...

Speak soon.

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