An Irish writer who was forced off Twitter because of frightening tactics employed by a troll met his nemesis and proved that trolls aren’t as brave as they let on.
According to Traynor’s Eye, a blog compiled by political consultant and writer Leo Traynor, a bit of detective work on Traynor’s part led him face to face with a troll who had been victimising him and his family online and eventually offline.
The story has begun to be picked up internationally and was featured this afternoon on TechCrunch.
According to Traynor’s Eye, the trouble began in July 2009 at which point Traynor was a seasoned Twitter user with two years under his belt. He decided to follow a new follower going by an innocuous-sounding handle and within 10 minutes received a DM calling him a “Dirty f*cking Jewish scumbag”.
Traynor blocked the follower and reported it as spam
The same thing continued to happen on a daily basis until he made his account private and the problem went away … for a while.
After that his Facebook account was hacked, his blog spammed and his email inbox flooded with aggressive language and images of corpses and concentration camps.
When his wife joined Twitter and updated her profile to mention she was married to Traynor, the abuse pattern began to include her.
In June, July and August of this year the abuse pattern escalated to a frightening degree when one day Traynor received a parcel in the post containing a Tupperware lunchbox full of ashes. A note inside said: “Say hello to your relatives from Auschwitz.”
“I was physically sick. I was petrified. They had my address. I reported it to the authorities and hoped for the best.”
Two days later a bunch of dead flowers was found at the front door with his wife’s old Twitter username on it. That night Traynor received a DM: “You’ll get home some day & ur b**ches throat will be cut & your son will be gone.”
Traynor reported this to the authorities but lost sleep for fear of his house or family being attacked.
A friend who happened to be an IT expert decided to intervene and Traynor baited the troll by turning off his Twitter account and inviting friends to contact him via Facebook or Google+.
It transpired the abuse emanated from three separate IP addresses in different corners in Ireland. Two of them were public Wi-Fi addresses but the third turned out to be the location of a friend’s house.
According to Traynor:
“The Troll was his son. His 17yr old son. I was gobsmacked. I spoke to my friend at length. He told me how his son was always glued to his laptop, tablet or smartphone. How he couldn’t watch a TV show without tweeting about it simultaneously. About how he’d become engrossed in conspiracy sites. It also became clear that the other two IP addresses had been used by his son.
“He was horrified at what his son had done. Horrified, but not surprised. He wanted to call the authorities there and then and turn him in. But I said no.
“A couple of days after that conversation I met my friend, his wife and their son in a quiet and discreet location. The son, The Troll who almost driven me mad, was totally unaware that I’d be joining them.
“I sat down and ordered a big pot of tea. ‘Do you still like choc chip cookies?’ I asked The Troll and he nodded eagerly, a shadow of the little boy that was flickering across his face.
“We had a chat. I told them about my wife and son. I told them about my recent illnesses and bereavements and about the builders having been in. I asked after their business and asked The Troll how college is going. All bright and breezy and a trip down memory lane. Then The Troll’s Dad tipped me the wink and I opened my bag and took out my manila folder.
“I showed The Troll’s mother and father screengrabs and printouts of his handiwork.
“I showed them pictures of ashes and dead flowers.
“I pointed out that one of the messages my wife received wishing me dead had arrived when I actually was gravely ill. I told them of how I’d become so paranoid that I genuinely didn’t know who to trust anymore.
“I told them of nights when I’d walked the rooms, jumping at shadows and crying over the sleeping forms of my family for fear that they would suffer because of me.
“The Troll burst into tears. His dad gently restraining him from leaving the table.
I put my hand on his shoulder and asked him ‘Why?’
“The Troll sat there for a moment and said ‘I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m sorry. It was like a game thing.’
“A game thing.”
Traynor 1, Troll 0
Internet troll image via Shutterstock