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Manchester's Self-Described 'Internet Troll' Jailed For Offensive Web Posts 321

noob22 writes "According to BBC Online, 'An "internet troll" who posted obscene messages on Facebook sites set up in memory of dead people has been jailed. Colm Coss, of Ardwick, Manchester, posted on a memorial page for Big Brother star Jade Goody and a tribute site to John Paul Massey, a Liverpool boy mauled to death by a dog. The 36-year-old "preyed on bereaved families" for his "own pleasure," Manchester Magistrates Court heard.'" My favorite line: "Unemployed Coss was only caught when he sent residents on his street photos of himself saying he was an internet 'troll.'"
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Manchester's Self-Described 'Internet Troll' Jailed For Offensive Web Posts

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  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @05:12AM (#34071620) Journal
    Why so few posts?

    First they came for the trolls...

    Then it was a lot quieter? :)
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I'm so reporting you to the Manchester police for trolling trolls on slashdot. You've been backtraced and you'll face what will never be the same.

      • It won't work. From the RA: 'The term "Troll" was described in court as someone who creates new identities on Facebook accounts [sic] and then posts numerous offensive comments to upset or provoke a reaction from others.' (My emphasis.) Slashdot isn't Facebook.
    • ... and nothing of value was lost?

  • He was convicted under the Communications Act of 2003 [], specifically for sending malicious communications. The revised Act [] reads

    Any person who sends to another person—
    (a)a letter, electronic communication or article of any description] which conveys—
    (i)a message which is indecent or grossly offensive;

    (1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—
    (a)sends by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or

    • "a message which is indecent or grossly offensive"

      I'm offended by your comment! Why haven't you been jailed!?

      • Because whilst you might make any random claim to be offended, you have persuade the Police to agree, who have to get the Crown Prosecution Service to agree, who have to persuade a jury of twelve ordinary people to agree.

        By this time you can be sure that the message was indeed "indecent or grossly offensive" in the eyes of the average reasonable person.

  • Why would you do this? I mean what disfunction must you have that you start to think that this is acceptable?
    • Re:Why? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Securityemo ( 1407943 ) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @05:47AM (#34071728) Journal
      Sadism, deriving pleasure from others pain? Normal people have an emotional reaction when they percieve others suffering, so how easy wouldn't it be for a wire to get crossed and delivering pleasant emotions instead of painful?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kestasjk ( 933987 ) *
      In many web communities winding people up by any means is a common and all too popular source of fun, my guess is that someone like this has little experience of social interaction outside of these "communities", and little/no experience of loss to be able to sympathize with these people, so he didn't realize he completely and totally crossed the line.

      Too bad for him.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BasilBrush ( 643681 )

      Someone who is lonely and has an inferiority complex. He gets a feeling of importance proportional to the number of people that reply to him. And the most reliable way of getting a good number of responses is to troll. Trolls with little imagination just rely on being offensive.

  • 18 weeks? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Manip ( 656104 ) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @05:32AM (#34071682)
    I love how "computer crimes" are punished on an entirely different scale to regular crimes. You can go bottle someone (break a glass bottle over their head) and you get an average of zero days in jail (suspended for two years). You can go mug someone and get only a week of "hard time" with a year of parole. I mean heck you can go run someone down in your car and still get a lighter sentence than 18 weeks...

    There is no level of rationality to computer crime sentences because the "old people" on both sides of the bench are simply too ignorant and out of touch to really know what the crime involved or how serious it was. This case should never have wasted the UK's courts time and public money let alone the cost of keeping him in jail for any period at all.

    Frankly I have a VERY low opinion of the police, judge, and state for this one. I want a million pounds spent on arrested serious criminals and keeping them locked away. Give the mugger, violent thug, or drug dealers 18 week sentences instead of saving them for the "omg computer terrurist?! he uses microsoft and word to send deadly communications of doom!"

    What's more - he wasn't even punished for threatening people. It is one thing to make threats and to scare people. It is another thing entirely to offend or upset them. While I think the things he said were extremely rude and offensive - nobody felt in fear for their security.
    • Re:18 weeks? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Corbets ( 169101 ) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @05:45AM (#34071722) Homepage

      Do you really suppose that young Internet geeks have a better idea of "how serious" such a crime is than "old people" in the courts? This has almost nothing to do with technology, beyond the fact that technology was an enabling medium - the crime was incredibly anti-social behavior in the form of harassment. I'm not convinced this was the right law to try him under, but tossing someone in a cell for 4 months for harassing grieving families - with the sole purpose of that harassment - doesn't seem all that off to me.

      Threatening someone would have made it worse, yes, but harassment is a crime itself.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Rogerborg ( 306625 )
      This wasn't a single spur of the moment offence. It was a pattern of deliberate, malicious and wilful repeat offences spanning years. Still, your strawman is very pretty.
    • IMHO, the law gives the judge / jurors some discretion when they assess the issue. It is not "crime A" --> "punishment A", but "crime A" --> "punishment A" +/- delta.

      In this case, Coss accepted the charges but clearly refused to express regret by his actions. To the judge, that may have been sound like "Ok, do what you can, because as soon I get out of here I will do it again" and decided him to impose a harsher sentence. Probably, if you break a glass bottle in someone's head and do the same while be

      • Re:18 weeks? (Score:5, Informative)

        by cappp ( 1822388 ) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @06:26AM (#34071876)
        Yup, sentencing guidelines [] exist and you can browse them to your heart's content. I found one article [] where they broke down the sentence:

        sentencing guidelines suggested 12 weeks in prison, the seriousness of the offences meant that he should serve 26 weeks, dropping to 18 weeks because of his early guilty plea.

        So there it is, the guidelines wanted 12 weeks but that was more than doubled by the seriousness of the case and the specific fact-pattern. 8 weeks were then lopped off for making a guilty plea. Bit of math to help the geek cred.

      • There was no jury. The BBC describes the 'chairwoman of the bench', which means that this case wasn't even tried by a qualified judge. Just three people virtually plucked off the street and given a couple of weeks training before being handed the power to screw someone's life up. This case seems to demonstrate most of the things wrong with the magistrates court system in the UK.

        • He had the right to a jury trial in crown court but chose to be dealt with by the magistrates. Had he chose a jury trial he would have most likely had a stiffer sentence, so it was a wise choice on his part.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kestasjk ( 933987 ) *

      You can go bottle someone (break a glass bottle over their head) and you get an average of zero days in jail (suspended for two years). You can go mug someone and get only a week of "hard time" with a year of parole. I mean heck you can go run someone down in your car and still get a lighter sentence than 18 weeks...

      [Citation needed]. I think 18 weeks is fine, if there's an issue with anything you've said it's just that those sentences are obviously too light, but I've never heard of that (perhaps beyond exceptional cases).

  • I have met men. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Securityemo ( 1407943 ) on Saturday October 30, 2010 @05:36AM (#34071694) Journal
    Slightly OT, but I have met men who are sadists without being narcissists or psychopats (not in the BDSM sense, but "I would be euphoric if I set fire to a baby" sense), but who have moral inhibitions that seem sincere reflexive reactions. I cannot possibly begin to understand how these people's minds work subjectively, but I have a folk-psychological intuition I find useful in understanding some of the finer points of Asperger social deficits - on a deep level, all humans assume others to be like ourselves. So such a person might still find it intuitively acceptable to be cruel to others on a regular basis due to the "reward" afforded them, like a normal person would cut someone off in traffic on a rainy monday when late to work. It's just that the reward is completely unknowable to a person who isn't a sadist. One of these people work in the medical industry, and obviously enjoys (again, not just in the gallows humor sense) discussing gory injuries - but I still would consider him a good man. I suspect this is more common than one'd believe.
  • "Unemployed Coss was only caught when he sent residents on his street photos of himself saying he was an internet 'troll.'"

    I'm not sure which is weirder - that his street photos have residents, or that a still photograph could convey him saying something. Was there a speech bubble drawn on the photograph or something?

    • He sent pictures of himself to his neighbours after writing something on the pictures to identify himself as an "internet troll". GNAA must be cringing now. Maybe the shame will push them into paying for a hit.

  • So now whats to stop someone from trolling like this guy then posting a picture of a person he hates claiming it to be a picture of the troller? Getting the innocent person arrested, even if the charges are eventually dropped would be a pretty good troll....
    • by ctid ( 449118 )

      Why would anyone believe him?

      • Why would anyone believe him?

        I believe that this sets the precedent for the general behavior of internet trolls:

        Colm Coss's activities were uncovered when he posted photos of himself to neighbours

        That's what they do.
        They troll you online, and then they send you photos of themselves. That's their nature and MO. They can't help it cause they are a bit wrong in the head like that.

        Ergo, when you get a photo in your mail - it's the person who's been trolling you. Call the police to arrest him/her.

  • by David Gerard ( 12369 ) <slashdot&davidgerard,co,uk> on Saturday October 30, 2010 @06:35AM (#34071890) Homepage

    An "internet troll" who posted offensive messages on the World Wide Web has been revealed to be the Daily Mail [].

    The Mail "preyed on bereaved families" for its "own pleasure", the Press Complaints Council heard.

    The paper was charged with sending malicious communications that were grossly offensive. The posts included comments claiming the victims had brought it upon themselves by being asylum-seeking homosexual Poles who caused EU cancer.

    it was only caught when it sent residents copies of itself saying "FREE DVD FOR EVERY READER."

    The term "troll" was described in court as someone who creates numerous identities, called "columnists," and then posts offensive bollocks to upset or provoke a reaction from others and gain page hits and advertising revenue.

    "You preyed on bereaved families who were suffering trauma and anxiety," said chairwoman of the bench Pauline Salisbury. "We know you gained pleasure and you aren't sorry for what you did."

    The paper has been convicted of sending "malicious communications" and the editor has been given a knighthood and a rôle as official advisor on government policy.

    The defence raised possible mental health issues, but this was dismissed by the bench.

  • He dun goofed. Now consequences will never be the same, since someone obviously backtraced him and sent the information to the cyberpolice. Maybe now you guys will listen.

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein