The Thin-Blue Web: Police Crime Records of Internet Trolling Show Chivalrous Attitudes That Can Be Resolved through Transfer of Powers

The Thin-Blue Web: Police Crime Records of Internet Trolling Show Chivalrous Attitudes That Can Be Resolved through Transfer of Powers

Jonathan Bishop (Centre for Research into Online Communities and E-Learning Systems, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8598-7.ch004
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This chapter using an empirical data-driven approach to investigate crime recording logs of South Wales Police relating to Internet trolling byand towards different sexes. The chapter finds more favourable attitudes towards women as victims in even the most trivial of cases. It finds male victims of trolling are only treated as victims when a form of unwanted face-to-face encounter is needed for action. The chapter shows transferring police powers to local authorities, can cut the cost of community policing by 50% across the board and eliminate sexist attitudes also. The chapter finds that the way social media platforms are exercising ‘sysop prerogative' where they have no right to – such as not passing over account information on alleged defamers – puts a huge burden on police resources. Using local authorities, which have many of the same powers as the police and indeed more, can resolve problems without the need to criminalise offenders.
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Internet Trolling And The Dark Web

The act of being provocative or offensive on the Internet is often called Internet trolling or cyberbullying, which are a huge problems facing the world today (Bishop, 2014c; Buckel, Trapnell, & Paulhus, 2014; Hardaker, 2013). People who abuse others online show no regard for any differences, such as age and sex and will abuse others for occurrences in their life whether happy events or tragic ones (Bishop, 2014a; Bishop, 2014d; Phillips, 2011; Walter, Hourizi, Moncur, & Pitsillides, 2011; Walter, 2014). Internet trolling on websites like Facebook and Twitter are often easy to identify and deal with as they are recorded in a durable form. Others, however, such as those which occur via Skype video calls, where the abuse is not recorded in a durable form, or otherwise accessible via a public-facing website are more problematic, and form part of the ‘Dark Web.’ The dark web is generally thought of to be the part of the Internet containing websites and file locations that are not indexed by conventional search engines and are therefore hard to find (Stevens, 2009).

Police are now struggling to cope with the number of reports of Internet trolling, and unlocking those dark web networks hiding illegal content. It is often the case that these electronic message faults (EMFts) will be recorded differently depending on the officer and the reporting person in question. Other than through the Data Protection Act 1998 in the UK, it is otherwise unlikely someone will know what information, or misinformation, has been recorded about them by the police, creating a de facto ‘dark web’ in the police, where what they record about citizens will usually go unchecked (Gürses, Troncoso, & Diaz, 2011). This will be referred throughout this chapter as the ‘Thin Blue Web.’

What is apparent from the most prominent of cases brought against trolls since 2011, which have been reported in the media, is that the targets for the authorities have been young men. Namely; Liam Stacey, Reece Messer, Jamie Counsel, Anthony Gristock, and Matthew Woods, among others. One notable exception was Isabella Sorley who was a woman convicted for the trolling of radical feminist Caroline Criado-Perez, known mostly for her misandrist views on wanting less men on banknotes (Bishop, 2014a; Bishop, 2014b; Bishop, 2014d).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Institutional Sexism: The result of an organisation made up of persons who share the same attitudes favouring one sex over another in a given situation. Whilst the organisation does not have sexist policies, the attitudes have the equivalent effect.

Harassment: A course of conduct that results in a person feeling harassed, alarmed or distressed, which is not reasonable, or persued in the course.

Benevolent Sexism: The tendency to endorse the traditional feminine ideal or to view women in idealised, overly romantic terms or as delicate creatures who require protection.

Narrative Analysis: An umbrella term for an eclectic mix of methods for making sense of, interpreting and representing data that have in common a storied form.

Crown Prosecution Service: The public body in the United Kingdom that decides whether or not a prosecution should be brought.

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