How one troll went from abuse to apology in minutes


1:39 pm - July 29th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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Meet Oliver Eric Rawlings – he decided today that he would throw abuse via Twitter, and embarrass himself on the internet.

Here were his tweets not long ago.

Update: He’s deleted his tweets but we have a screenshot

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To which Jeremy Vine replied

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Pretty soon, other people piled into him.

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and…

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Oh dear!

He suddenly realised he was rumbled and ran with his tails between his legs.

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and then…

Embarrassing.

The original outburst was embarrassing but good on him to apologise (once he realised he was going to be exposed!).

Other trolls keep this in mind – this could happen to you too.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. organic cheeseboard

ONE stupid, not ‘on’.

And can we clear this up – this isn’t trolling, it’s just abuse, and there is a difference.

No, it’s his original tweet that was embarrassing. His apology and mind change is welcome.

This is a small example of a particularly annoying aspect of our political discourse. People need to be able to “U-turn” from mistakes. It’s at the very essence of progressive, radical, evidence-based and frankly sensible politics that we learn from mistakes and adapt accordingly. This whole mindset that it’s changes that are embarrassing (rather than bad opinions/policies themselves) are part of the reason we see the most belligerent politicians thrive.

3. charlie brealey

[deleted]

The only lesson here is that if you have half a brain, you’ll create an anonymous account before you give someone shit

Unless you honestly think he walked away from this thinking “Well I sure learned my lesson. I’ll never throw abuse at anyone on the internet every again!”

What he said was really disgusting. No explanation as to why he said it.

Internet = no facial expression – no human eyes responding with the flow of emotion to your words. How meaningful is it and how touched are you if a person face to face tells you that you have done a great thing, vs reading their words on the internet..

It removes so much, I noticed years back that it was getting hard to find a youtube video with out an insanely abusive argument underneath that had no relation to the video. People get carried away on the internet because there is no emotional feedback, it takes a lot to throw such a comment out face to face.

When I interneted more before facebuk killed my blog I used to like receiving a bit of abuse. I don’t get tw@ its on a sort of level which hasn’t appealed to me

8. My bleeding heart

I think this guy is in desperate need of attention. Clear, deep-rooted psychological (and mother?) issues.

He has protected his account after I pointed out that nothing is really deleted from the internet.

Good luck with all your future job interviews, Oliver!

I think it is deep cowardice that he has refused to explain his actions.
I’d like to know WHY he did it and where the vitriol came from.
Pure woman-hating?
He may have taken the correct course in apologising to the Professor (though he evidently only apologised because someone had doxed him) but if he was truly sorry he would explain and unpick his nasty behaviour.
He is another nasty male with a misogyny problem.

I noticed years back that it was getting hard to find a youtube video with out an insanely abusive argument underneath that had no relation to the video. People get carried away on the internet because there is no emotional feedback, it takes a lot to throw such a comment out face to face.

From what I can gather it is only a problem when it occurs on Twitter.

12. the a&e charge nurse

[10] ‘I’d like to know WHY he did it and where the vitriol came from’ – I think the simple answer is that many, perhaps even most adults, are pretty damaged its just some have developed more effective ways of containing their inner troll.

13. Shatterface

This is a small example of a particularly annoying aspect of our political discourse. People need to be able to “U-turn” from mistakes

People can’t change their minds though. If something they say today contradicts something they said yrsterday they are either ‘hypocrites’ because they lying, or if they are sincere and it’s a ‘humiliating climb down’.

Even a total, grovelling apology, like the one above, is an invitation to be called a ‘coward’ for not explaining your actions.’

As for those gloating over the posters future job prospects maybe there should be a special tax band for those who think the twattish behaviour on the internet justifies keeping someone permanently on benefits.

Does this solve the whole Twitter abuse problem? You can only have access to Twitter if they have a record of your mum’s address?

15. Charlieman

@11. Cylux: “From what I can gather it is only a problem when it occurs on Twitter.”

The longer form of a blog or YouTube comment thread reduces the likelihood of explosions. Often, but not always.

Twitter is an immediate form of communication, designed for quick response or expletive. Plodders like me read comments on blogs or bulletin boards. Fast thinkers (sic) use Twitter to determine what commoners think. Thus fast thinker (ie journalist) angle on the story is derived from Twitter.

@13. Shatterface: “People can’t change their minds though. If something they say today contradicts something they said yrsterday they are either ‘hypocrites’ because they lying, or if they are sincere and it’s a ‘humiliating climb down’.”

Most people have a best friend, and the identifier of a best friend is that they are the person most able to tell somebody that his/her behaviour is unacceptable.

I disagree about whether people can/not change. People who are removed from privilege (in real life, not a brief experiment) almost always change. And we all know of examples in the opposite privilege direction.


Was the response to Rawlings’ words appropriate? He disgraced himself and Mary Beard was rightly wrapped in comfort. But is a civic internet posse (a threat to send a copy of the message to Rawlings’ mother) the right way to handle the bloke?

@15

The longer form of a blog or YouTube comment thread reduces the likelihood of explosions.

Thing is, YouTube comments are notorious for their abuse and vitriol, as Ob mentioned, so ‘explosions’ happen there all the time, so everyone’s used to encountering it there. A bit like how certain clubs acquire a reputation for hard drug use, so even people on their first visit are not that horrified at what they witness – it’s within their range of expectations.

Twitter on the other hand has users who like to think they’re a cut above the rest, and don’t much care for YouTube comment-standard tweets, and thus you have to put up with the likes of Piers Morgan demanding to keep ‘our twitter’ free from ‘trolls’. By putting them in jail.
It’s basically just an exercise in keeping the riff-raff off the lawn.

It’s basically just an exercise in keeping the riff-raff off the lawn.

Yes, isn’t it horrible how some people don’t want to be abused or get sexual threats all the time… Shame on them for wanting to enforce the law! Maybe you should start a Twitter mob.

@17 I ain’t pretentious enough to have a twitter account I’m afraid, you’ll have to start your own mob.

19. Robert Darlington

Trolling is about winding people up for the fun of it but no harm is meant.

This is just abuse and would be condemned by the majority of trolls.

20. Charlieman

@16. Cylux: “Thing is, YouTube comments are notorious for their abuse and vitriol, as Ob mentioned, so ‘explosions’ happen there all the time, so everyone’s used to encountering it there.”

My experience differs; you might be better off looking at the stuff I view on old trains, cars and buildings; or perhaps you have a life.

I follow your point, though.

“Twitter on the other hand has users who like to think they’re a cut above the rest, and don’t much care for YouTube comment-standard tweets, and thus you have to put up with the likes of Piers Morgan demanding to keep ‘our twitter’ free from ‘trolls’. By putting them in jail.”

I have always viewed Twitter as a mechanism for mistaken discourse, a bit like having a few beers before asking fellow bar standee whether he has had a good day. Thump. (I cannot imagine why Piers Morgan came to mind.)

“It’s basically just an exercise in keeping the riff-raff off the lawn.”

Us riff-raff need a better way to communicate about raking golf greens and burning toffs’ sheds. I suggest postcards.

Reporting this to his mother seems to me totally appropriate. It wasn’t a rape threat, just grossly insulting. It’s the kind of thing that in real life social/parental pressure would shut up, but on the internet it runs rife, and you can only control it on a local level. That is, Sunny would chuck someone off Liberal Conspiracy if they went on like that, but Twitter is a global provider of a service.

Does anyone know how Twitter deals with complaints about racist tweets?

@20

I cannot imagine why Piers Morgan came to mind.

Mainly because I recall him in one tweet challenging all twitter trolls to come at him because he could take it, then in the next saying that he was going to get them all be locked up.

Us riff-raff need a better way to communicate about raking golf greens and burning toffs’ sheds. I suggest postcards.

Well if Caitlin Moran gets her way (and I sincerely hope she does) there’ll be a £30 annual subscription fee for twitter, and if we’re really lucky they’ll also make it so that you have to subscribe before you can view any tweets.

15. Charlieman

Really? Journalists get their stuff from tw@? God help us, that explains a lot. re- youtube. I noticed long time ago from the way the comments were going on mine that youtube was the lowest common denominator. I quite like this and thought it was quite cheeky compared to the highbrow nature of pro journalism. Its a good? Well- funny anyway- gauge of the human race.

I go through once a year deleting these endless sister fucking, pork fat rubbing and kill all Muslims stuff but I try as hard as possible not to censor.

“As for those gloating over the posters future job prospects maybe there should be a special tax band for those who think the twattish behaviour on the internet justifies keeping someone permanently on benefits.”

Yes, yes, yes!

Also, it’s not trolling and the media only call it that because they are ignorant.

25. Jim Hutchon

I do feel many of the trolls get a truncated sense of reality when working on a screen. It’s a bit like driving like a maniac on Grand Theft Auto, if you crash there’s no blood or pain or grieving relatives. Do it in real-time and you’re in for a stark reality check. So too with trolls, on screen they are communicating with symbols on the screen, but if you threaten reality – like the boxer who turned up in a troll’s street so he shit himself, or this Oliver – when the prospect of involving his mother made it all real – and they will cave in.

26. CloseShave

Wouldn’t surprise me if this isn’t Masonic “Hacking Horseplay”
(givaway is VINE)

Are these the so-called Trolls who live under the Templar Royal Arch Bridge?
(them folk who learn parts of ‘Sa_gas’ as a degree or two?

these sort of postings of peoples tw@ arguments are basically no different to the arguments people had on blogs back in the day though are they? Its just geek wars isn’t it.

Trolling is intentional obfuscation of facts and details. It’s when you willingly say silly or stupid things to get people angry or exited about correcting you.

Going to a zoo, standing at the Bald Eagle area (right next to the sign) and saying “Look at the size of those falcons, what are they feeding them?” and then when people get all excited to correct you just start arguing with them that they are wrong and that you know what a falcon looks like, you raised them for 6 years … and on and on … that’s a sort of trolling. Messing with people is trolling.

Just posting a hurtful message to someone is abuse. It’s being an asshole. Tweeting “Fuck you, get in a car crash!” is just an asshole move, it’s not trolling. Trolling requires nuance, and when you’ve been properly strung along and trolled by an expert, it’s actually funny.

Having a dick call just ham-fistedly call someone else a dick isn’t anything but dicky.

Ultimately though, you’ve got to block it out. People on the left have been through far worse over the years.

30. Charlieman

@28. Yoyo-ma: “Trolling is intentional obfuscation of facts and details. It’s when you willingly say silly or stupid things to get people angry or exited about correcting you.”

That is a reasonable definition.

Sadly, Yoyo-ma, you delivered those words without looking around.

Up @23 and @27, there is a perfect troll called dave bones. dave bones has an idiot blog to suit his personality. How dumb can you get? This
dumb:
http://malung-tv-news.blogspot.co.uk/

31. Charlieman

@30. Charlieman: Up @23 and @27, there is a perfect troll called dave bones. dave bones has an idiot blog to suit his personality. How dumb can you get?

I reckon I fucked that one up, Mr Bones.

I ain’t pretentious enough to have a twitter account I’m afraid, you’ll have to start your own mob.

Yes, all these people who you called ‘riff raff’ a minute ago are just being pretentious because they want to get news via Twitter. You’re too cool for us.

There is a certain level of hypocrisy I fear; elsewhere on this very website we have a feature glorifying insults sent, via Twitter, to Tommy Robinson of the EDL. Which seems to mean something like, “trolling” is fine against people we don’t like or something.

Still, all this does stand as another useful lesson in how Feminists and other Proggies use “the shock doctrine” to push forward their agendas, in this case the internet censorship they are desperate to impose.

34. George King

I tell you that there will be more rejoicing on the internet over one troll who repents than over ninety-nine righteous twitters who do not need to repent.

classic behaviours of a person with aspergers and/or ADHD.. I bet his mum already knows of this and past keyboard warrior exploits..and is presently tutting loudly saying oi Vay my son is an idiot!!!!

@17. Sunny Hundal

“Yes, isn’t it horrible how some people don’t want to be abused or get sexual threats all the time… Shame on them for wanting to enforce the law! Maybe you should start a Twitter mob.”

I think you are simplifying this issue too much. There has to be a protection of free speech, and I don’t see there being an argument to support banning being insulting. You say it’s the law, but with the exception of s.5 of the POA 1986 which looks like it is going to be amended, it isn’t really the law.

The man making these comment clearly has giant insecurities and think that he can probably be dismissed as a loser. End of. Some people I believe maybe need a thicker skin. This is obviously a completely different case from that of threats to rape.

Hi, your blog posts and you have really great job & appreciation for such a brilliant.

38. ultimatetroll

Ha! Dream on Sunny!

>”The original outburst was embarrassing but good on him to apologise (once he realised he was going to be exposed!).”<

er no – not "good on him" at all. Giving him a pat on the back for apologising… hello?

@39 Well done for proving Shatterface’s point for him.

He’s sorry he got outed, not sorry for his behavior. Important to note the difference. But it’s progress, however marginal.


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