Comment: Cyber bullies are vile, but should we be locking them up?

Posted in: Child Protection&Online Safety at 18/09/2011 23:04

An 18-week sentence for Sean Duffy, a young man who posted astonishingly malevolent messages on a Facebook memorial page, one set up to mourn Natasha MacBryde, a teenager who had committed suicide, has been attacked by some people as too lenient. Another bereaved parent, who feels he may also be Duffy's victim, thought 18 months would be more like it. Duffy, aged 25, was the second such offender to be prosecuted under the Malicious Communications Act; last year, Colm Cross was jailed for posting obscenities on Facebook tribute sites, including that of Jade Goody.

That Duffy suffers from Asperger's, according to his defence lawyers, was not allowed to mitigate his serial targeting of bereaved families, a hobby which seems to have emerged in the trollosphere in response to MySpace and Facebook tribute pages to dead teenagers, producing not only deliberately offensive satire of the often banal contributions on such pages, but episodes of actual harassment. The parents of Mitchell Henderson, a teenager from Rochester, Minnesota, who shot himself in 2006, were subjected to a year and a half of nuisance calls as well as defacements of his MySpace memorial page.

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