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Wednesday, September 14, 2011 Steven Morris www.guardian.co.uk internet-troll-sentenced-to-18-months-fo

Sean Duffy, 25, was jailed for Internet trolling. Trolls abuse the anonymity of the Internet to disrupt the normal functioning of online communities.


An Internet troll posting offensive messages and videos on tribute pages dedicated to dead teenagers was sentenced to 18 months in jail by a British court on Tuesday.


Sean Duffy, 25, targeted Facebook tribute pages and posted videos on YouTube mocking the dead and their families.


One of Duffy's victims were Natasha MacBryde, 15, who was hit by a passenger train and died. Duffy posted "I fell asleep on the tack lolz," on the tribute page created for MacBryde. Other trolls joined the abuse. He also posted a video called "Tasha the Tank Engine" in which MacBryde's face was superimposed on the fictional engine.


In another incident, Duffy attacked a tribute page dedicated to car crash victim 16-year-old Hayley Bates, defacing pictures of her by digitally adding crosses on her eyes and stitches over her forehead. He also posted a message that read, "Used car for sale, one useless owner."


Duffy's final target was Jordan Cooper, 14, who was stabbed to death. Duffy crated a group titled "Jordan Cooper in pieces," featuring a profile picture of a knife with blood dripping from its tip.

Judge Paul Warren sentenced Duffy to 18 months in prison, saying "You have caused untold distress to already grieving friends and family. The offences are so serious only a custodial sentence could be justified."


Duffy was also banned from creating and accessing social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Myspace for five years. He will need to inform the police whenever he purchases an Internet-capable mobile phone.


No mitigation: lawyer

"In terms of mitigation, there is none," said Duffy's lawyer Lance Whiteford. I cannot imagine the trauma and anxiety caused to the families of these horrible, despicable offenses."

Duffy, who was unemployed, pleaded guilty to two cases of trolling and said he had Asperger's syndrome and lived a "miserable existence" drinking alcohol alone at his home in Reading, close to London.


What is an Internet troll?

An Internet troll is described on wikipedia.com as "... someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community ... with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion."


Mass media, on the other hand, uses the word troll to describe "a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families."


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