Online Trolling and Abuse

Thankfully I have never been and hope I never will be a victim of online abuse. Occasionally since setting up Gardiner Music, I have seen some actions online that have caused me to be somewhat wary, mostly by the odd person looking for my attention in a way that has caused me to question them. Thankfully these instances have been very few and far between, and generally more odd than sinister.

I am a bit of a Moby fan but I have to say reading accounts of his latest book, as a woman I didn’t really like what I read. While I didn’t take to twitter to voice my opinion, I did feel that an apology to Natalie Portman was warranted, given her denial of the claims he made about her, and the fact that he did not inform her or the other women mentioned in his book that he would be including them. I’m glad that he has now apologised.

I saw that several people, including Moby himself, describe some of the comments he received as online abuse and bullying. I looked for some of these comments and while they may have been upsetting for him, and while I don’t agree with trial by social media, the comments are nowhere near as bad as some of the online abuse I have seen women receive on social media. Was it trolling or was it that people were upset to see a musician they admire openly bragging about a possibly fictitious relationship at 33 with a then 18 year old actress?

Recently I worked on a concert that was billed as an alternative to the Eurovision – it was called Palestine ‘You’re A Vision’ – organised by Palfest Ireland… a celebration of Palestine and Ireland’s support of all those people currently living in Gaza, while Israel hosted the actual Eurovision in Tel Aviv.  I looked after the Palfest twitter account and I expected a little bit of trolling, but in fact other than a couple of comments calling the event anti-semitic (which it wasn’t), there really was very little online dissent – it seemed that most people could see it was a celebration of Palestine and embraced it as such.

However, not so for one of the female performers at the event, Mary Coughlan. Mary Coughlan was invited to go on the Late Late Show to talk about the event.  Following her interview on the Late Late Show, she was the subject of horrific comments on social media. Bear in mind that the actual Palfest social media accounts were not subject to similar horrific comments. Comments such as:

‘ F*ck you bitch. Your whole life is hate speech. If I catch a thirty day time out it is worth it to tell a c*nt like you how it is;’

Lovely. There was a lot more like this both on Facebook and on Twitter.

Would a man receive these kind of comments? No

Did these comments come from men who simply HATE women? Yes

Did these comments have anything to do with the event? No

Did Mary do anything other than be involved in a concert celebrating Palestine and stand up for human rights? No

Did any of the men involved in the concert receive comments like this? No

When I saw the extent of the comments Mary received, I rang her to tell her how sorry I was that she had to go through that. At the concert, I gave her some flowers and a hug to again tell her how sorry I was that she had to go through that.  I really believe that had she been a man, there is no way that the comments would have been as hateful and as evil as the comments Mary received.

I don’t have a solution to this, for as long as people can hide behind online accounts, trolling and online abuse will continue. It is up to us to say it is unacceptable.

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