The internet is on most occasions a very helpful place where solutions to all problems and answers to all questions are easily available. However, since the internet gives voice to a wide variety of people who may have conflicting views and ideologies, sometimes things take an ugly turn. The culture of trolling on the internet is steadily picking up pace and rapidly disrupting healthy spaces on the internet. When someone disagrees with a particular opinion expressed by another person on the internet and decides to mock the person or the source behind it, he/she is said to be trolling that person. While trolling may not sound very serious, it often leads to online harassment that severely affects the mental health of those on the receiving end of it.
A disturbing incident of online trolling and harassment recently came to light when the victim Tanya Gersh from Montana, filed an official lawsuit against the man who started it all. Having received nasty emails, messages and phone calls since December 2016, Gersh decided to stand up to trolls and cowards who use computer screens and anonymity over the internet to harass people. Fictional stories about Gersh were published on the neo-Nazi website “Daily Stormer” that claimed Gersh, Jewish by faith, was trying to extort and force Sherry Spencer, mother of an openly racist and white nationalist man. The article published by Mr. Anglin on the Daily Stormer, urged the readers who were clearly aggressively Anti-Jew, to “take action” and tell the Gersh family including Tanya’s 12 year old son how they felt about her attempt to extort Sherry Spencer. Anglin also attached all contact details that would allow his readers to reach the Gersh family or anyone closely associated with Tanya Gersh. Following this the entire Gersh family was subject to all kinds of profanity through all possible means of communication. Tanya recalls over 700 instances of harassment that followed after the “Massive Troll Attack” on her and her family and also explains how it severely impacted her mental health and wellbeing. Emotionally distraught by the kind of messages she would receive day and night, she talks about how she would constantly worry about the safety of her 12 year old child, go to bed in tears and regularly wake up with panic attacks.
This just goes to show the power of the internet and more importantly the impact of negative speech on the internet. Trolling and online harassment that amounts to such degrees of emotional, mental and physical pain must be treated as a crime and should be served with appropriate action. Putting out someone’s personal details without their consent violates their right to privacy and can have serious consequences. We commend Tanya Gersh and her decision of taking the people responsible for her trauma through online harassment to court rather than giving in to them and not raising her voice against them. We believe that the best response to hate speech is a better speech and urge everybody to raise their voices in protest of trolls and harassers who attempt to make the internet an unpleasant place for others.