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BBC confronts Facebook troll

An Internet troll who posts allegedly hateful and racist remarks on Facebook's RIP sites, seems blase about his activities when he is intercepted by a BBC reporter.

What goes through the mind of someone who trolls Facebook's RIP pages in order to leave messages like "Rot in Piss?"

What sort of person does that? What do they really look like? What do they sound like?

The BBC took it upon itself to try and meet one of these people, just to measure their charm level and the cut of their jib.

In a piece of footage unearthed by The Next Web, a BBC reporter tracked down a troll in Cardiff, Wales, who goes by the handle Nimrod Severen. Astoundingly, his real name is a lot less romantic: Darren Burton.

In a show that aired Monday night, the BBC showed how his postings to various Facebook RIP pages were brutal, bigoted, and sometimes racist.

Burton looks like so many large, smoking men whom you'd see in a British pub. He didn't deny the reporter's accusations that he posted vile material.

But what about the unknown (to him) people whose pages he trolls? "Do you think about the effect it has on them?" asked the BBC's Declan Lawn. Burton's response: "Yeah." What does he think about them? "F*** 'em," Burton said.

Burton then asked Lawn to consider whether he was, in fact, breaking the law.

Some might imagine racist speech is definitely breaking the law. England's soccer captain, John Terry, is facing a court case, after he was accused of directing a racial epithet at an opposing player. (Terry was stripped of the captaincy this week.)

Burton believes that Facebook allows him to say whatever he likes. "Facebook is an open forum," he insisted. He also believes that the courts wouldn't punish him, in his eyes, severely.

Referring to a previous case, in which time served was very short, he said, contemptuously: "Nine weeks? Nine weeks in jail? What's that?"

Somehow, people have come to believe that the Web is a place where everything can be said. Some companies appear to foster the notion.

For example, when Facebook was reluctant to take down Holocaust denial pages, the company's reasoning was: "The bottom line is that, of course, we abhor Nazi ideals and find Holocaust denial repulsive and ignorant. However, we believe people have a right to discuss these ideas and we want Facebook to be a place where ideas, even controversial ideas, can be discussed."

Some might take this to support the expression of ideas (however crude and cruel) that might generally be regarded as repugnant. Others would deem Burton's expressions as merely hateful and mindless and not ideas at all.

The whole BBC Panorama program is available in the UK, but not in the U.S.

So many enjoy their anonymity on the Web. It can give so much. But, in this case, there is something suitably chilling about putting a face to the words, a face to the nasty, heartless, pointless thoughts that pollute not merely the Web, but humanity itself.

Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET