Internet troll jailed for abusing families of dead teenagers

A man who sent hateful messages to the grieving families of dead teenagers has become the first person to go to prison for Internet trolling.

A man who sent hateful messages to the grieving families of dead teenagers has become the first person to go to prison for Internet trolling. 25-year-old Sean Duffy has been jailed for 18 weeks for a campaign of sick messages and videos on Facebook and YouTube.

Duffy, who is an alcoholic and suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, targeted assorted youngsters who have died recently. They included a 16-year-old killed in a car crash, a 14-year-old stabbing victim, and another 14-year-old who died following an epileptic seizure. He sent messages to family members and posted abusive updates on memorial pages set up by family and friends.

Duffy also created Facebook pages and YouTube videos mocking the youngsters. In one video he used an animation of Thomas the Tank Engine and superimposed a picture of a bullied 15-year-old who had committed suicide by throwing herself under a train. The troubled teen had been a victim of cyberbullying before her death.

Duffy did not know any of the victims, making his actions all the more bizarre. Sickeningly, other Web users joined in the abuse, but they are yet to be prosecuted. Duffy was caught with the help of his Internet service provider.

Duffy was sentenced to 18 weeks each for multiple offences at Reading magistrates' court after pleading guilty to two counts of sending malicious communications, and asking for three other cases to be taken into consideration. The sentences will run concurrently.

Upon his release, the troll has been banned from accessing websites including social networks Facebook, Twitter, Bebo and Myspace.

Cyberbullying, online abuse and trolling is made possible by the online cloak of anonymity, the bully's ability to send abuse without having to face the victim, and the instancy of computers making it more likely to send abuse in the heat of the moment. Is prison the right place for trolls, or is this a stiff sentence for someone sending online messages? Tell us your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page -- and let's all be nicer to each other.

About the author

Rich Trenholm is a senior editor at CNET where he covers everything from phones to bionic implants. Based in London since 2007, he has travelled the world seeking out the latest and best consumer technology for your enjoyment.


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