back to article UK gov's troll-finder general says he's hanging up his axe

The UK's director of public prosecutions, web troll-tackling Keir Starmer, will step down from his job in October this year. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) confirmed that he will complete his five-year term in the autumn. It did not comment on any possible candidates to replace the outgoing director. Last year, Starmer …

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Hmmm

Some people do harass others (like altered pictures of the recently dead), but do we really need a hurt feelings police?

And what about people who pass on dead celeb jokes? Isn't that also RIP trolling?

Its an incredibly complex and difficult area to police, and the noise to signal ratio is enormous.

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Re: Hmmm

There's a fine line between hurt feelings and libel and slander.

One that trolls cross all the time.

Hopefully, that is the purpose of this organizations.

Libel and slander have serious consequences for the victim in the real world.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hmmm

@Ecofeco - Yes, just look at what's happened in the US with the guy who was wrongly named of the Boston bombings.

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Re: Hmmm

Where does

"you're ugly and you're spotty and you smell like Billingsgate"

come into. Banter? Insult? Slander and Libel?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hmmm

I'm sure you'll stand by your viewpoint about hurt feelings police when trolling happens to be related to some of the people you really cared about, right after they died. You will stand up and say to the world: it's ok, it's just a couple of cunts, but hey, live and let live, no hurt feelings.

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Re: Hmmm

"I'm sure you'll stand by your viewpoint about hurt feelings police when trolling happens to be related to some of the people you really cared about, right after they died."

Seems you don't quick comprehend how complex the entire issue is.

There is you example,

or maybe "All Man-U supporters stink of wee"

Like I said, its a very complex subject matter. How do you codify good taste?

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Re: Hmmm

"don't quick comprehend "

don't quite. damn fingers

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Re: Hmmm

Of course the hurt feelings police will not give a crap unless you are "important" or know the home number of someone important. The only other time they will take any notice is after it's become a big blowup in the media, and by then it's too late thanks to the media / Streisand effect.

If the post is actually libel then no new law is needed, they already have one.

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Gav
Holmes

Re: Hmmm

"do we really need a hurt feelings police?"

Trolling can cause far more than "hurt feelings", especially of the type which is essentially online bullying. People have committed suicide. Others have live in very real fear of anonymous threats becoming real. "Hurt feelings" can be far more damaging than a physical "hurt nose". So if you can be prosecuted for punching someone in the street, then why not for mentally torturing them online? It's all hurt.

My main problem with the CPS is that they pursued the wrong people simply because they were easier to catch. Like someone saying something stupid on twitter that everyone knows is just hot air.

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Re: Hmmm (@The Jase)

The statement is defamation if it's communicated to a third party by the person making it (rather than merely a private insult), and would cause a person's standing in society to be seriously affected, or would cause the individual to be shunned or avoided.

So the legal protection is on reputation, not on feelings.

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Re: Hmmm

> So if you can be prosecuted for punching someone in the street, then why not for mentally torturing them online? It's all hurt.

Mostly because it's very hard to write a sensible legislation around. "I smacked him in the face" is very easy to identify, very easy to define "you should not do this". Also it requires both offender and victim to be in the same place, so "contact points" are statistically much less likely and so it scales.

Mental "hurt" is subjective; what offends some people doesn't offend others. Many humans are petty, selfish, not particularly nice people (it's in the genes folks - the bastards survive) and the internet is "there" - especially with social media - and a low barrier to entry. You therefore have a high "contact" point and many people wouldn't think twice about posting crap online, but they would think twice about swinging a punch.

See the latest kerfuffle about the "Youth PC" and some of her historical twitter posts - kids will be kids (and many are spiteful little snotty brats, that's in the genes (and hormones) too) - you don't honestly want to suddenly start locking up all 12-16 year olds, right ...?

You then have a group of people who go out of their way to be "offended" - see the recent issue at PyCon. See I didn't even mention dongle once.... ah .. bugger. Lock me up. I offended someone.

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Windows

Re: Troll-finder... Did he find the pro-windows 8 guys on this site?

Fear not, your hate of Microsoft and Windows is a well documented universal constant.

Have you considered investing this much effort into something constructive?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Troll-finder... Did he find the pro-windows 8 guys on this site?

How do you make a totally unrelated story something that you can post anti-MS bile in, yet you can't even be arsed to post positive comments in FOSS related stories?

You strike me as being a very bitter person, or maybe just a troll, or maybe both.

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Re: Troll-finder... Did he find the pro-windows 8 guys on this site?

Slandering MS. To the dungeon with you!

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Anonymous Coward

Pretty pertinent

Pretty pertinent given the comments by @old_holborn this week and the ensuing twitter rage mob of angry scousers (some of whom are now being investigated for threats they may have made).

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He headed a service that refused to take any action against Phorm or BT after taking literally hundreds of times longer than the average time taken to come to a decision over whether to prosecute. I certainly won't miss him.

Good riddance.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes, one failing in five years on a fairly subjective subject and you can write off his whole career.

Sheesh.

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@A/C 15:46

There's nothing subjective about doing nothing to punish those involved in the illegal interception of communications - interceptions that involved tens if not hundreds of thousands of BT customers affected by the trials.

As for the rest there are other instances - phone hacking and Simon Harwood both come to mind.

Would you really like me to find more examples?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: @A/C 15:46

@Vimes - It's not obvious that the CPS were presented with any evidence from the Police that constituted as clear a case about PHORM as has been generally accepted in the IT press. The issue that the CPS have is if someone can be prosecuted and if there is a realistic ability to prosecute that offense.

The phone hacking is a case of the Police not investigating, the way that the CPS works is that the Police present them with evidence and they decide to prosecute or not. As soon as the Police re-investigated the case they prosecuted. Likewise with Ian Thomlinson/Simon Harwood, the CPS could not prosecute initially because there were two conflicting postmortem examinations, severely complicating the matter and making it unlikely for them to be able to obtain a successful prosecution.

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Re: @A/C 15:46

It's easy to not find anything when you don't want to do so. The CPS used the same police officer in the second investigation as the one that ran the first one, despite his conclusions being the subject of the second investigation. It's even easier when that police officer has been wined and dined by Phorm prior to him dismissing any concerns without ever formally interviewing them.

Trying to ignore something hoping it will go away. Being part of the same civil service trying to give out information that they want to be 'comforting' to Phorm. Using somebody who you know will give answers that you want to hear.

Are you honestly going to suggest that there wasn't something amiss here?

As for the phone hacking:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/05/01/john-yates-and-and-keir-s_n_1467432.html

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Re: @A/C 15:46

Incidentally even documentation produced by BT referred to what was going on as 'stealth' trials. I can't get rid of the impression that they damned well knew what they were doing was wrong.

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Special Force Operations ... MKUltraSensitive

A Crown Troll Minder would be an Additional Intelligence to Supply AIMaster Pilot Programs. Who bats for the House of Windsor at that crease?

Who dares win?

Indolent Virtual Troll or HyperRadioProActive CyberIntelAIgently Designed Entity are two NEUKlearer AIgents and Licensed to Thrill in Novel Advanced IntelAIgent Games Play? Virtual Reality Presentation.

The Grand Quest ... to Present the Virtual Life of Global Operating Devices to Reality to KickStart Active Imagination.

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Trollface

'the 2003 Communications Act, ... outlaws messages that are "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character"'

..and yet YouTube and Streetfire comments remain accessible in Blighty. Bizarre!

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Go

"mainly cite section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act, which outlaws messages that are "grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character"."

I believe that may also cover those of frivolous or vexatious nature... if not, it f'in well should!

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Unhappy

Historically only media outlets had the range to reach *very* large audiences.

So it was more difficult to troll people.

The internet lets anyone libel (IIRC slander is spoken libel) anywhere, anywhen.

It would seem that societies attitudes to unkind words will have to make some kind of adjustment in the way that that people gave up fighting duels for honour.

What that adjustment will be is another matter.

Perhaps with great attention comes great responsibility?

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It's not only that the Internet let's anyone insult anyone else, it's much more the fact that the Internet is millions upon millions of anyone insulting anyone else.

It's purely a problem of scale.

Libel laws were effective up to the first http connection because before that, the only guy to slander you was a neighbor or someone in your rather immediate surroundings. And you would drag him to court over it because the slandering happened in your surroundings.

Now, your immediate surroundings has been artificially expanded to include countless faceless people you don't know, don't know you and will never meet you, but have no fear of commenting on what they read on Twitter or wherever. And since they have the understanding of a goldfish, their reactions are knee-jerk level at best. Unfortunately, their attention span is longer than that of the goldfish, and some can be quite boneheaded about it.

On top of that, it's a lot easier to be relentless when all it takes is sitting behind a keyboard. The Internet has birthed a whole new generation of stalkers of all kinds, and that is a sad fact.

In all this, the law is now swamped and totally overrun by this potential. Libel laws were designed when one person could be found guilty of slandering another. Today, millions can potentially be found guilty of slandering the same person. How to manage that without locking courts up with slander cases until the end of time, excluding more important things like criminal assault, homicide and kidnapping ?

And you can't really say that people are just going to have to thicken their skin - sadly there have been suicides due to this online behavior. Even though that would be the best solution.

I have no idea what the solution is, but it seems to me that the law is not going to help here. This is a social issue that will just have to find a social solution, not a legal one. And, as much as I don't really like the idea, it seems to me that online anonymity is going to be the casualty of this situation.

After all, the evil slanderers and stalkers do their deeds mostly because they think they cannot be traced - until the cops show up at their door with a warrant. So maybe if they knew beforehand that everything they do and say on the Internet can be immediately pinned to their name and address, maybe then they would think twice before gratuitously insulting and harassing someone.

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Joke

In the words of Chamillionaire

Trolling, the haters, now they got me posting dirty.

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web troll police, only in the UK

Wow I hope they don't mess with my favorite COD web troll General Minus (Weregonnalose is almost as good imho on the American side).

(warning strong language from the chavs he torments)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWj3a9na51g

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLsySiM7B7E

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What a useful law

What a usefullaw; now organized crime can clog up the Courts' calendars with trolling cases and delay prosecution of real crimes for YEARS.

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Pint

The man who refused to prosecute BT/Phorm

His tenure has been a disgrace to justice and human rights.

I am glad he's going. Its a shame he didn't resign earlier.

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