Why The Daily Telegraph Should Be More Ashamed Of Itself Than Ever [Updated]

Dust off your suit of armour and saddle up your best war horse, internet, because the Daily Telegraph is going to war against Twitter trolls. Here's why you should be angrier with mainstream media than you've ever been before.

Update: We've added a few things to the story since it was published. Head to the footer for the new developments.

"Be afraid, keyboard cowards, we're coming to get you" reads the first line on the front page of The Telegraph. Clearly, it's us versus them.

Australian personalities have signed up to combat cyber cowards and a two-page feature spread has been given to the "campaign". No less than six stories in today's Telegraph are dedicated to denouncing those on the Twitter who anonymously torment people like television host Charlotte Dawson, radio host Ray Hadley, Attorney General Nicola Roxon, Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy and footballers Robbie Farah and Josh Dugan.

Ultimately, all this column space is being used to get you to sign the Telegraph's online petition to "take a stand against faceless Twitter bullies".

To understand just how fruitless and offensive this campaign is, and why you should be so mad, we need to go back to the beginning of the saga to where mainstream coverage of the "troll epidemic" started.

First it was Charlotte Dawson. Dawson hosts Australia's Next Top Model and after a tirade of abuse from one Twitter troll, she decided it would be a good idea to out them. Turns out the troll was a Monash University staffer, who was quickly suspended. Dawson was then subject to a barrage of abuse from other users, with some of the nastiest stuff coming at the end when people said that the star should take her own life. Dawson was later hospitalised after posting a tweet that read only: "you win x". Truly an awful case.

Robbie Farah was next. He's a footballer who should be no stranger to abuse, but nevertheless, when someone said some awful things about his recently deceased mother on Twitter, he called on NSW Premier (and football fan) Barry O'Farrell and Prime Minister Julia Gillard to change the laws to tackle Twitter trolls. Thanks to that tweet, he's now getting a meeting with the Prime Minister, who, presumably, has a lot of more important things to be doing.

Those are only two cases, but you get the idea.

Now, I'm not for a moment saying what these trolls did was right -- far from it, in fact. Someone was hospitalised because of what these people said, and that's tragic. Cases like this present a real problem that ought to be tackled. Trolls often say these awful things because they're most likely disturbed people themselves in need of help. It's a serious issue in need of a serious response, and that's not what the mainstream media is giving you.

The bastion of internet lexicon, Urban Dictionary, defines a troll thusly:

One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument

By this definition, the Daily Telegraph is the biggest troll of all.

The Telegraph has gone into its 840,000-strong newsgroup and purposefully disrupted the national discussion away from important issues like the state of the dangerous New England Highway, the enormous public sector job cuts in New South Wales and Queensland and the cigarette plain-packaging debate, and shifted the agenda onto issues of trivial importance.

Worse still, the Telegraph is taking the spotlight away from other online issues that ought to be in the national spotlight.

Australia is staring down the barrel of a massive data retention regime that will affect every single citizen online, the internet filter project isn't dead and buried yet and the National Broadband Network -- the most expensive infrastructure project in the nation's history -- is still being bitterly fought over. So why, Telegraph, WHY have you chosen to carry the torch of people too stupid to press the "off" button when they find something objectionable on the internet?

The Telegraph's campaign to out Twitter trolls is also to the detriment of the real victims of online bullying. Kids are cruel, and with the power of mobile smartphones, Facebook and instant messaging, it's no wonder childhood and adolescent depression, anxiety and suicide is on the rise. Stupid mainstream campaigns like the one from the Telegraph marginalises the real suffering of real victims.

It's also absurdly hypocritical for the Telegraph to run an anti-troll campaign and still keep horrid people like Andrew Bolt on the payroll.

I bought the paper today, for the first time in a long time, so that I could write this story. If I had it my way, I'd pulp every single copy.

Fight the trolls? Here's looking at you, Daily Telegraph.

Update: since I posted this story this morning, a tweet has surfaced that's purportedly from Robbie Farah in regards to the Prime Minister. It looks like it's been deleted, and based on the content, I'm not surprised. No word from Farah yet on the tweet itself, but I imagine that his meeting with the PM is going to be frosty.

If you are subjected to cyber bullying or need someone to talk to, visit beyondblue.org.au or call Lifeline on 131 114.



    What I got from this: if you are being bullied then you should get counselling, but the bullies shouldn't be held accountable?

      Bullying is serious, but it's being trivialised by these sorts of campaigns. I'm all for a "Stop The Bullies" campaign that doesn't ferment an "us versus them" mentality, but it's not what we've been given.

        The Tele has broken the number 1 rule of the internets. DON'T FEED THE TROLLs

          No, rule one is "The internet makes you stupid.". 4chan even said so.

            I wish rule 34 was more mainstream ;)

        Luke, you do realise that by posting this story and aknowledging the telegraph that they win right? They're a tabloid, not a newspaper. This is what they live for.

          That was something I had to wrestle with as I wrote it. Attention is what they want but the problem is big enough that it needs addressing.

            "The Telegraph has gone into its 840,000-strong newsgroup" -- Yep, that's a whole 100,000 LESS than 2011 (source being the very source they use to report their readership base: http://www.roymorgan.com/news/press-releases/2012/1760/) .

            Is this article bad journalism? Yes.
            Will it infuriate and generate attention? Yep.
            Will it generate sales this week? You betchya!
            But will it help a dying publication in a dying medium? Nope.

            Interesting how The Telegraph has published an article pretty much written exactly for those who are least likely to purchase their paper (or any paper for that matter). It IS a cry for attention - but I refuse to believe that the average Australian is stupid enough to buy into their opinions, and will happily watch as the readership base for this tabloid continues to tumble =)

        Sorry Luke, I understand that the Telegraph is a rag that should be banned in it's own right, but you really haven't said anything to make me "mad" in this case. The fact is people who use forums like 'Twitter' etc are basically signing their right to privacy away. Also, switching off is a win for the 'Troll'. What is needed is legislation that forces the organisation in question to more closely monitor their feeds and remove those comments that clearly breach a code of conduct.

          If you get upset by trolls then you have some serious problems to address. Your life is going to be a walking nightmare.

          Your morality/opinion does not equal everyone else's Morality/opinion.

            Yeah, where in my comment does it say I'm upset by 'Trolls' ?
            Also, at no time did I indicate that my morality or opinion was equal to anyone else's!
            I simply indicated that the problem could be reduced by proper monitoring and judicious editing.
            Completely irrelevant comment..!

              "Proper monitoring and judicious editing" by legislation "that forces the organisation". Not sure a company like Twitter (still struggling to find a revenue business model) can monitor/edit millions of tweets a minute or whatever is realistic. Not to mention Australian legislation telling them to do so.

              I sort of agree with your article Luke, but your anger came through to much in your writing. Unfortunately shock jocks and tabloids hold to much power over the blissfully ignorant and hence this is a worthwhile argument (but I fear with the masses being happily ignorant is un-winnable).

              Educating against such ignorance requires leadership, something not being seen in Australian Politics but rather a desire to gain power by using that ignorance (simply easier).

                Someone needs to take responsibility for what is posted on these sites. I understand that it a massive task but they are making money from it and the should be responsible for it. Whether or not they are making a lot of money is irrelevant! If they can't afford to police it then they should not be allowed to run.

                  But where do you draw the line? Should Telstra monitor phone calls for death threats? Should Australia Post open all mail to check for hate mail?

                  I think there should be investigations into ways to deal with extreme cases online, but I don't think twitter should have to monitor content.

                  But how can you police comments? If i call my mate a [email protected]#[email protected][email protected]$#! on twitter, he will laught it off... How would Twitter know the difference between me rubbishing a mate in good humour and offending a total stranger in a mean way? Its not actually possible.
                  (Whether or not a person is "friended" or not, is not a decisive factor. Cos many bullies "friend" their prey.)

              Editing to whose moral standard or code??? If twitter and facebook decide to do it of their own accord. Good for them, but for legislation to be enacted to stop such speech? (which would be in itself ineffective, and unable to be adequately policed, will they only pay attention when someone famous cops it, or a real tragedy occurs?)

              Free speech includes speech one may not like. I'd rather it stay that way.

              If you get trolled, don't feed em.

                Common sense is all that is needed. Where it is obviously going to cause harm, or a nasty little good for nothing with nothing better to do should also be obvious.! It's not that hard!

              There's a big difference between a troll and someone with a different opinion or moral view.

            That was not a productive comment. Try and engage in the discussion next time Mark.

          What an absolute load of crap! What we need is less people like you who can't seem to live their lives without the government telling them when to breath. I am sick of the government introducing new legislations telling me how to live my life. If you don't like what you are reading, stop reading it! As for kids being bullied online, that is up to the parents to monitor and regulate as they see fit. If you are offended by what you read online, get off the internet!

            YOU.. are part of the problem. These Trolls don't need you feeding them positive feedback!

              How is that in any way positive feedback? Agree with Brad entirely, as far as I'm concerned I should be free to do as I please as long as it does not infringe on anyone else's right to do the same.

              F*ck huge centralised government.

                As has been mentioned before, Common sense, is the key here. I'm not talking about thought police here, just a common sense way of evicting the worst of the worst. I think a localised moderator would be a big step forward.

                  We could moderate you in your home for any outlet of negative emotion. Someone might find them offensive. Your daily interactions with other human beings might influence them negatively.

                Yep, because having small government and less legislation is a proven combination for happiness and a healthy society /s.

                Would you rather we were more like the US and not have government benefits like healthcare?

          One thing to keep in mind is that you can't really make rules against trolling. Back in the olden days before trolling developed this sort of culture it has today trolling had a much stronger emphasis on playing the rules. You couldn't really get anything by flat out insulting someone on a message board because best case scenario was that it'd take a few hours before getting deleted. So instead you had to work around the rules (preferably in a way that got people who actually cared about participating in the forum banned).

          Trolling changed with the invention of the comment section and MySpace/Facebook because the rules stopped mattering so much. You can just smear digital feces all over the front page of a website or a persons Facebook page and have a laugh. However when you talk of legislation it's very important to look back because it shows you that even when the rules are enforced trolls still function.

          If they made a law against calling people fags in YouTube comments you can bet the first people to get in trouble will be those who have been baited by trolls. If you say you can't call someone fat, a troll will just shower them with compliments until they develop an eating disorder.

        What does Andrew Bolt have to do with the subject of the article. Are you a troll?

        I love the mentality behind the DT article, "OMG lets get the bullies, by... being bigger bullies!"
        this has nothing to do with Trolls, its the media and the moronic mainstream having no idea of the difference between TROLLS and bullies.

        Good article luke

          Insulting people is bullying, not trolling... its like the media are trying to look like they know what they are talking about...
          Anyways, telling someone to go die on social networks should be treated the same as if it was said in real life and taken to the police...

            Nailed it mate +1

        While I agree with you Luke mostly, the idea of 'you can just turn it off', also doesn't hold water. You can, but it's still there. Can still be seen. What these people are saying, quite rightly so, in a rather crappy Today Tonight way, is that people who post this shit should be held accountable for what they post. People who do stupid things like posting death threats over FB and twitter, threats of violence etc, should be able to be found out, should be made accountable. However, mocking someone for their dead parent, while disgusting, is not likely going to get anyone charged. The biggest issue we have with the us vs them campaign is that the previous generation is still in power and for the most part doesn't understand the tech at hand. As they edge out and we edge in becoming the older generation it will change a bit, ignorances will still be there of newer tech but we will likely be more open, thanks to the stupidity we saw come before us. Unfortunately, only time will tell.

      Yes, well you should probably read the article. It's saying that if you're being bullied you should switch off and that bullies are pathetic but we shouldn't be pandering to them with censorship law that won't work. The main point of course being that the Telegraph are hypocrites and are responsible for diverting the public debate from a more important agenda.

      Stopping all the trolls on the internet is a fools errand. Even if laws in Australia are enacted, I doubt international trolls will all be extradited.

        good for more "jobs"

    So the only logical explanation for this is that the Daily Telegraph ended all alcohol-related violence with its Real Heroes Walk Away campaign, right? Or have they just forgotten about drunken violence?

      I was thinking about that "Real Heroes Walk Away" thing last night, they gave up on that pretty quickly, I expect once people get sick of hearing about trolls they will give up on this as well. They have no intention on making the world a better place, it's all about rating and sales.

    Why am I getting that feeling that everyone is about to be punished for the behaviour of a very small minority of d*ckheads?
    Ahhh thats right, because that's what always happens.

      Welcome to the nanny state formerly known as Australia.

        Moreso welcome to reality. The minority always ruins it for the majority.

    And don't forget where this issue really started: a prolonged viscious campaign of online abuse and vilification against the PM. Didn't hear any of these guys complaining then!
    If you want to see how bad it is for women, google journalist Anne Summers' blog .

      This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

        Clearly you are not an ALP supporter and your comment reflects this. The fact is that she is the leader of this country and she deserves the respect accorded her high office. Whether she is female or whether you have a negative view of her, the language used against her is an offence IMO. Mr Abbot in particular is the worst offender and has pretensions of the office himself. Now if you want to talk about liars in high office, you should put him at the top of your list.

          Sorry mate but no, i agree that Tony abbot is worse, but julia is a lying backstabbing poor excuse for a prme minister, she deserves the same respect she showed rudd... oh wait thats right... non.

            All Pollies lie - it comes with the job. However Tony Abbot has said you should never believe anything he says unless it is written down. Julia is doing a very hard job, in very difficult circumstances and deserves a bit of respect for the fact she is actually getting things done. And Rudd, well if the rumours I hear are true - she had no intention of going for the top job until he started counting the numbers and trying to get her out of the way himself. But I don't think anyone will ever know the truth behind what happened then.

        I think there's a line between pointing out a person's failings and name-calling to express emotional discontent. It's entirely fair to describe instances where a politician has failed in their office, lied, been involved in unsavoury or illegal conduct, obfuscated or backflipped. It's disrespectful to go about using derogatory epithets, and weakens your position as it implies that you have run out of evidence to show the person's failings.

        I got trolled and I missed it? Damn!

    Then you obviously didn't read it.

    Wait til this hits 4chan and they launch something in return... Good luck Telegraph... you'll need it.


    Don't like trolls? Stop feeding them!
    And what the newspaper is doing is analogous to delivering a 3-course meal to each of them...

    Trolls are there to provoke argument. They succeeded by getting a newspaper feature. Successful troll is successful.

    20 century solution to a 21 century problem. Don't feed the trolls!!

    The day the mainstream media can differentiate between "troll" and "bully" is the same day something concrete will come of a "stop the bullies" campaign.

    In the meantime, the celebrities and politicians mentioned above, can start by ceasing their own bullying in their everyday lives. Lead by example first and not because you lost a battle.

    New Ltd still trolls Kyle Sandilands from an incident 12 months ago. Anything to sell a story.

    So your issue with TDT is that they have their focus today on one particular segment of news rather than another the YOU feel is more important. I am not saying I disagree as to what may be more important, but is this not similar to common occurrence of people having a go at a cop for giving them a speeding fine when they could be out catching the "real" criminals.
    The argument could be made that by you writing this article you have simply given more power to their focus rather than trying to shift the focus to one your aforementioned areas of attention requiring news.

    This is something ive been saying since the start of this whole sudden discovery of there being Trolls on the internet, turn it off or block them its really not that hard.

      They (the DT) haven't even got the the definition of Trolls correct. Telling someone to kill themselves is just hate, not trolling. Putting something out there to get a reaction and to goad someone into an argument is trolling. The internet however seems to change peoples perspective on how to react. How would you react if someone bullied you in real life. Shouldn't;t the same apply? Shouldn't one just ignore. It's not like everyone can;t see what you've tweeted on twitter is it. It's not exactly hidden. You can report them, you can block them. So why is bullying online so much worse? In the end, guess what? People can say anything they like and they will. Only you can dictate the response to that. Get a clue and get a perspective (and maybe a tech journo who actually knows their stuff) News Ltd.

      +1 That's what i thought when Charlotte Dawson hospital incident occurred. No one made her log onto twitter to check the abuse. She could have just shut her twitter down till it all blew over.

      Exactly, if you're stupid enough to buy into the bullshit and give a troll a response, you're just advocating it further. Not necessarily a case of deserving it, but you're just giving them more fuel to pour on the fire. Ignore it and don't even dignify with a response.

      Or you could reverse troll them..................... ;)

    I disagree completely: since the Tele does so much damage by spreading misinformation (there is data on this: the more people read the Tele, the less they know; they actually know less about the issues than people who report not reading a paper at all), when it focuses on the relatively trivial issues it does less damage. We should hope that it moves on from trolling to even less important things.

      This is a fair point. But if it keeps going this way, it will turn into another wad of diatribe filled gossip mag. No one needs that shite.

    Mainstream media is a troll and always has been that's just what they do!

    I don't know if I totally agree about the "hitting the off button" - people should be able to fight against objectionable material and people should be able to exist free from personal abuse.
    But the Tele leading the charge?! God, give me strength! You've nailed that.

      You're right, people SHOULD be able to... but this is the internet.

      Why should people have a right to be free from personal abuse? Why does anyone have the right to live their life in an insulated bubble free from criticism, denigration or disagreement?
      It's precisely this sort of thinking that has led to religious groups thinking that their beliefs should automatically be respected and how no-one should have the right to poke fun at or criticise whatever rituals and customs they hold dear, no matter how utterly idiotic or disgraceful they may be.

      No-one has a right to be free from abuse. If someone bothers you online, turn the sodding computer off. End of problem.

      Yes it's wrong for people to post mean and slanderous comments, but why should that everyone's problem. The whole problem with this debate is that people are forgetting what the internet and social networks are. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ as well as many others are PUBLIC forums. When these "victims" sign up to these networks they accept that they comments and statuses are going to be publicly viewed and commented unless they set them privately. Why shouldn't turning it off fix the problem? If someone harasses me, I block and report them. End of story.

      Furthermore, the only way to moderate this is to get someone to filter through everything posted. I don't feel that my comments should be filtered on the social networks I use and I don't want to have to pay for someone to filter them. Why should I be punished because someone else does not know how to use a social network?

        Bravo Dan.


        The tools are there for people to administer their own treatments for abuse - that's far better than what I get IRL! If only I could just block or mute rude drivers who exhibit road rage; or yobbos who get drunk and try to start a fight when you're just waiting for the bus; or people who chew with their mouth open.

        Why should people have the right to freely abuse others going about their business? It's one thing to criticise or disagree with an opinion, statement or action, quite another to tell someone to go and kill themselves. This is exactly the problem - people these days don't seem to know how to express disagreement WITHOUT resorting to personal abuse. Witness the attacks on Gina Rinehart last week - she has expressed some heinous opinions and deserves to be challenged and criticised for them, but the majority of attacks I saw were, 'SHE'S FAT AND UGLY WHO CARES WHAT SHE THINKS!"

    Ummm, isn't there an off switch for twitter, facebook etc. I haven't been bullied via twitter, but if I am you can be damn sure I will just not check twitter for a week or so.

      You are exactly right. When it comes to online bullying the easiest way to stop it is to block persons from communicating with you or cease your interest in anti-productivity social media. WALK AWAY.... easy
      If legislation was put forward to combat these sooks then we would just see a push towards anonymity. When you are faceless your claws grow- simple. Atleast now with your identity attached there is a general nerfing effect.

      That's your off switch. Not logging on. The other "off" switch is to block and report them. The switch is hypothetical not physical.

      If someone is trolling/bullying, unfriend or block. Sorted.
      Obviously bullying is not OK in any form but at least online you have those options.

    Damage from trolling has only become a major issue once celebrities have become victims. Sounds about right.

    Problem is with your point Luke, is that you seem to be looking at it as the Daily Telegraph being some kind of public service. They're a privately owned newspaper. Same as any other private medium, their objective is simple to sell newspapers; and they've been in the business long enough to have deduced that this twitter troll story will shift units.

    Using your own argument, you could point out that those more important issues (the New England Highway, job cuts, cigarette packaging) are far more pressing stories to publish on Gizmodo - but that's unlikely to appeal to the demographic who subscribe to this website; and in turn isn't going to help with generating revenue from Telstra, Samsung and various tech aligned advertisers.

    Daily Telegraph on their moral high ground again. Their collective memory is just as selective as a two year olds hearing. I'm just glad they're starting another witch hunt. Cos, you know, they've always been super effective in the past... *sigh*

    Is everybody missing the point???

    Press the freaking OFF button.

    Twitter is NOT the compulsory school playground. You choose to use it you stupid twats. Just because you will come up with any lame excuse for having to use it, now the government must throw more taxpayer money at controlling your short sightedness to unsubscribe from the service instead. Grow some back bone and take some responsibility yourself, it is not that difficult.

    All these trolling came into the spotlight in Australia because a female celebrity who earned money from criticizing young impressionable women in a reality show was given the same treatment in a public forum and could not take it.

    I've never been cyber bullied but then I dont have facebook or twitter etc. If you want to bully me you'll have to do it in person, but bring a bat cause I know kung fu.

    Receiving abuse on Twitter. Select abusing users name and select block user. Fairly simple.

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