Confessions Of An Internet Troll (Part 2)

8/21/2012 9:19:54 AM

The victim’s story

Eileen Rosensteel, 38

“You fat cow.” “You’re too fat to f***.” Those are the type of hurtful messages that were sent to my email account on the Tuesday after the convention.

During the day, I work as an office manager at a university, and I was at my desk when a friend sent me an email about the post.

Description: Those are the type of hurtful messages

Those are the type of hurtful messages

I had a great time at the conference that year. I’m a big reader and a science-fiction fan, so I love the workshops, meeting authors and hearing readings of new work. There are parties and game rooms at night. I own a massage business, and that year, I set up a booth offering massages.

Now, after clicking the link my friend had sent, I was staring at a couple of photos of myself. My face had been whited out, but I was easy to identify. Underneath the picture of the massaging a client, the person wrote: “This is Eileen. She is 400lb of tension release. She is bodacious. The name of her massage parlor even has the word ‘Bodacious’ in it. Because she is.”

Other people had read the board and written similar nasty comments. One person reposted a picture of me and put a pig’s head over my face. Anonymous people sent emails to my business account, and spattered among the insults were four or five death threats

I was shaking with anger and shock after reading the post. My immediate reaction was humiliation. Hurt, I did myself away in my office and cried.

I called my husband right away. He wanted to call the police because of the threats, but I wanted to get my head round what had happen first.

The next day, I found out the name of the person who wrote the post, after her identity was revealed online. She was a graduate student at the university where I work. I was shocked, as I didn’t know Jane, and had no idea why she decided to pick on me.

I’ve been heavy all of my life. But, at 5ft 10in and weighing 500lb [35st 10lb], I’ve come to love the way I look. I’m part of the Fat Acceptance community, which encourages women to accept their bodies whatever their weight, and not to buy into the culture of diet and shame.

It’s not the first time I’ve been insulted because of my size – I was bullied throughout my childhood – but this attack was different.

Within days of the post going online, things got very intense, very quickly. I had decided against going to the police, because I didn’t think there was a real threat of violence, but I did save the emails as proof, and to cover my butt if I was attacked.

Friends came out to support me, while strangers were taking to the internet expressing their anger and disgust at what Jane had written. Vindictive things were said, and people wanted to find out all they could about her, so they could complain to her boss and send her nasty emails.

Description: Friends came out to support me

Friends came out to support me

But I didn’t want to retaliate in a negative way. After the initial shock and hurt, I decided it wasn’t worth spending any energy on. Instead, I posted an article about the incident online. I called the piece A Response to Hate, because I wanted the person who wrote those things to know her pathetic attempts at humour were not going to stop me from enjoying my life and loving myself. I also complained to the dean of the university, as I wanted Jane to be reprimanded for the attack. He talked to her, but I don’t know if she was disciplined.

Personally, I think internet trolls are sad people with too much time on their hands. I don’t think about Jane or what she wrote, but for a two-month period afterwards I was still getting emails – both negative and positive – because of her actions.

I’m sad that the incident had a negative effect on her life, but she initiated this. She made the decision to take photographs without permission and post them online with rude comments, so she has to deal with the repercussions. Jane has never spoken to me directly to apologise and, while it doesn’t affect my life any more, it’s still annoying.

The only difference between being insulted in person and insulted online is that on the internet, it lasts forever.

High-profile hate stars get trolled, too

With their every move documented by gossip sites, celebs are easy targets for internet trolls. Here, Glamour reveals some of the nastiest message received by the rich and famous

Alexa Chung

Alexa fell afoul of Instagram bullies after she posted a picture of herself on the photo-sharing site. Followers criticized the style icon for being too thin, with comments including, “Ew, she’s so skinny it’s gross.”

Description: Alexa Chung deleted a photo of herself from her Instagram after fans protested that the model looked too skinny in it and compared it to "thinspo."

Alexa Chung deleted a photo of herself from her Instagram after fans protested that the model looked too skinny in it and compared it to "thinspo."

Miley Cyrus

The 19-year-old starlet has urged Twitter bigwigs to monitor the site, after receiving death threats in February this year from a user known as @thecyrusslut. “@MileyCyrus – The only child people were pro-abortion for :)” was just one of the slurs, which provoked an army of Miley fans to report the offending Tweeter.

Alexandra Burke

The singer was put under police protection this year when she was bombarded with a series of death threats on Twitter, including: “I’m going to kill you tonight… gonna stab you… prepare to die,” and “Gonna shoot you”. A chilling warning also said: “I’m coming, and I’ll murder you!”

Louise Mensch

The MP suffered a vitriolic, sexually aggressive Twitter attack after defending Rupert Murdoch on News night. One wrote, “Louise Mensch… You would wouldn’t you? Given half a chance you’d strangle her!” Another said, “I’d love to hit Louise Mensch in the face with a hammer.”

Internet trolls and the law

People who cause their victim to feel fear or distress can be charged under the Protection From Harassment Act 1997.

Under the Malicious Communications Act 1988, it is a crime to send an indecent, offensive or threating electronic communication to another person.

The Communications Act 2003 prohibits sending a grossly offensive or indecent, obscene or menacing message with the intent of causing distress or anxiety. All laws are enforceable with up to six months in prison and/ or a fine.

October 2010 Colm Coss, 36, is jailed for 18 weeks for posting obscene messages on the memorial pages of, among others, Big Brother star Jade Goody and John Paul Massey, a four year old mauled to death by a dog. In online post, he claimed he had sex with their dead bodies.

September 2011 Sean Duffy, 25, receives an 18-week sentence of mocking the deaths of teenagers on their online tribute pages. His targets include suicide tragedy Natasha MacBryde, whom he labeled a “spoiled little ****’, and the mother of epilepsy casualty Lauren Drew, to whom he sent messages impersonating the 14 year old, including one that said, “Help me Mummy, it’s hot in Hell.”

March 2012 Liam Stacey, 21, is sentenced to 56 days in jail after posting racist Tweets when footballer Fabrice Muamba suffered a heart attack on the pitch. When Stacey posted his original comment, “LOL. Fuck Muamba. He’s dead. #Haha.” He found himself on the end of a backlash. Instead of removing the offending Tweet, he sent a barrage of racial abuse to his challengers.

What should I do if I’m trolled?

Don’t reply to their comments. Experts agree that trolls feed off getting you to react.

Set up a Google alert by going to so you get an email when anything that identifies you (like your full name and home address) appears online.

Description: Set up a Google alert by going to

Set up a Google alert by going to

Think ahead. RIP tribute sites attract trolls. Prepare for attacks before you start one. Make sure you have a moderated comments board so no comments can be posted without your approval. If it’s a Facebook memorial page, create an ‘invite only’ group.

If you are being harassed or threatened by trolls, tell the website host or social network admin and inform the police.

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