A U.K. man has been sentenced to 18 weeks in jail for being an internet troll.
Being a troll cost Colm Coss of Manchester more than just some hate mail and a flood of angry forum replies. The 36-year-old unemployed man will also have to give up a few months of freedom because he "preyed on bereaved families" by posting rude messages on websites dedicated to reality TV personality Jade Goody and John Paul Massey, a young boy who was mauled to death by a dog. The court was told that among his comments, Coss claimed that he had "had sex with the victims' dead bodies."
"You preyed on bereaved families who were suffering trauma and anxiety," Chairwoman of the bench Pauline Salisbury told the defendant. "We know you gained pleasure and you aren't sorry for what you did."
Coss was charged with "sending malicious communications that were grossly offensive," which is apparently illegal in the U.K. under the Communications Act 2003. He would have got away with it, too, except he sent pictures of himself to his neighbors saying that he was an "internet troll," one of whom passed the pictures on to police for some reason. Coss admitted to being a troll during a subsequent police interview.
And now it's time for some audience participation. What do you think is most disturbing: The fact that being a troll is literally against the law in the U.K., the fact that Coss' neighbors felt it necessary to inform the police that there was a troll living down the street or the fact that the police thought the matter was important enough to warrant an interview and then formal charges?
I don't like trolls. They're attention-seeking jerks who will say anything to get a rise out of people. When they get demolished in a forum thread, or banned, or even punched in the mouth, I don't mind at all. But I'm having a hard time believing that someone is going to jail for it. Any society that puts people in prison for being a dick is a society that's in deep trouble indeed.