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Who are the trolls?

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Trolls and ‘trolling’ have been dominating headlines since some high-profile Australians found themselves at the centre of vicious attacks on Twitter.

And it’s not just celebrities being targeted. Grieving families have been shocked to find their Facebook tribute pages to dead loved ones defaced with violent and disturbing images.

While a lot has been said about these so-called trolls, hardly anyone has been able to speak to them.

In an extraordinary television event, Insight hears from the trolls themselves – unmasked and unafraid to talk openly about their activities and where they draw the line.

They face off with trolling victims and experts to discuss the impacts of trolling, whether a crackdown on trolling would threaten free speech and whether people simply need to ‘toughen up’ when they enter online spaces.

Senior Producer: Jodie Noyce
Associate Producer: Kym Middleton

Meet the Guests

  • Stephen Deguara

    Stephen Deguara’s 15 year old daughter Kirstin was killed in a car crash in May 2010. Kirstin’s website was attacked by trolls two days after her death. The website was shut down but trolls then set up their own page about the crash.

  • Steven

    Steven is a self-proclaimed troll. He says he likes to troll people who he thinks are being aggressive or homophobic. But Steve doesn’t like Twitter trolls and says trolling has deteriorated from just ‘stirring people’ to hurting them.

  • Andrew Auernheimer aka ‘weev’

    Andrew Auernheimer calls himself a troll. Also known by his pseudonym ‘weev’, Andrew says trolling is about taking what people make public and using it to infuriate them. In 2011 he was arrested and charged for allegedly hacking into the servers of US telecommunications company AT&T and taking the personal information of Apple iPad users.

  • Jaime Cochran

    Jaime Cochran calls herself a troll. She explains trolling as doing something inflammatory that invokes an emotional reaction from someone. She says she doesn’t target anyone in particular, just “whoever takes the bait”.

  • Darren Hassan

    Darren Hassan says he was targeted by trolls after appearing on the first series of Go Back You Where You Came From. He says the attacks were personal and directed towards his wife and children. Facebook pages calling him a racist were also set up. Darren says anonymity online can bring out the worst in people.

  • Whitney Phillips

    Whitney Phillips has interviewed and studied trolls extensively as part of her doctorate in digital culture. She thinks the term ‘trolling’ is often used incorrectly by the media. She says trolls see their activities as a game. Whitney doesn’t think getting rid of anonymity on platforms such as Twitter is a step in the right direction.

  • Greg Walsh

    Greg Walsh is a lawyer who has represented families affected by cyber bullying and trolling. He wants new legislation introduced to help prosecute people who troll and bully online. He thinks we’re getting to a stage where we should no longer allow anonymity online.

  • Asher Wolf

    Asher Wolf describes herself as an information activist. She says there’s a political agenda to restrict free speech and that this is what’s fuelling the campaign against trolls. She says there’s a difference between legitimate trolling and bullying, and says that trolling can actually be “beautiful”.

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