Twitter troll: What I said was utterly appalling and disgusting

16/11/14

Isabella Sorley
Natalie
Isabella Sorley

A woman who was sent to prison for sending abusive tweets has told Newsbeat she is disgusted by what she has done.

Isabella Sorley, 24, was sentenced to 12 weeks in jail in January for sending menacing tweets towards the feminist campaigner, Caroline Criado-Perez.

In one of the tweets she threatened to do worse things than rape her.

Sorley told us she'd never met a victim of trolling - so we took her to meet Natalie.

The 18-year-old was at one stage bullied so mercilessly on social media sites, she says she felt suicidal.

If you have been affected by bullying, help is available from BBC Advice.

Natalie on camera
Image caption Natalie says online bullying took over her teenage years

'Nice person?'

Natalie, from Stratford-upon-Avon, was nervous about coming face-to-face with a troll but she was keen to find out what kind of person sends abuse online.

"I'd say I'm quite a nice person," Sorley tells her.

"If you're such a good person," asks Natalie. "Why did you send tweets - including 'Go kill yourself', 'Rape?! I'd do a lot worse things than rape you!!' and 'just got out of prison and would happily do more time to see you buried'?"

"I'd been on an incredibly heavy night out," says Sorley. "It was 80p a drink. So, take 20 quid, you're going to be smashed.

"I can't completely blame alcohol but it's definitely got a part to play in it. I'm a follower, not a leader, and I saw a lot of people were sending those tweets.

"To say that I'd do worse things than rape is utterly appalling, it's disgusting.

"I've questioned myself - is there something wrong with my mental state?" she says.

"Did you feel powerful when you sent those tweets?" asks Natalie.

"I spent six weeks of my life in a prison cell trying to figure out why I sent those tweets and how it made me feel," says Sorley.

"I guess I'd be lying if I said you didn't kind of have the upper hand against the victim. But I didn't do it for a reaction.

"It's the sort of stuff I'm prone to say when drunk and social media allowed me to use my vile mouth in a different outlet."

Natalie isn't satisfied with that and says: "When you're drunk you can still control your actions towards other people."

Sorley, from Newcastle, replies: "I don't want to put all the blame on alcohol as ultimately I've got my own mind, but it definitely distorted my brain.

"When I woke up I realised what I'd said was completely out of order."

Natalie and Isabella
Image caption Natalie asks Isabella Sorley to promise never to send abusive tweets again

After she was charged, Sorley sent another barrage of tweets including: "You're on Twitter then you should expect some sort of abuse."

She also wrote: "You can't handle letters on a page. Letters have never done any harm."

Natalie says: "A couple of words to me meant everything. I was thinking of suicide because of letters on a page that apparently don't mean anything."

Sorley admits the tweets were "lacking empathy".

She adds: "It was just my ill-judged opinion of the situation at the time".

The reality of what she had done sunk in during the court case, she says.

'Prolonged hatred'

Sorley has never met Caroline Criado-Perez and there's a restraining order in place meaning she can't make contact.

But Newsbeat spoke to Caroline about her ordeal

The 30-year-old became a focus for internet bullies last year, after successfully winning a campaign to get the Bank of England to keep female historical figures on bank notes.

"For about two months I was getting threats coming in pretty much every minute," she says. "People were telling me they were going to gang rape me.

"They found an address that was connected to me and they posted it all over the internet and they said that they were going to hunt me down and kill me.

"I was obviously absolutely terrified. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't eat, I couldn't get any work done.

"It's made me a lot more anxious as a person, a lot more worried about the reaction to what I'm going to say - you can't escape unscathed from that level of prolonged fear and hatred."

Three people have now been given prison sentences for the abuse they directed at Caroline and she says she "feels luckier than most victims of online abuse" because she got "some justice".

But she says: "What we actually need to do is to stop people wanting to say this stuff in the first place. And that's going to come from education and changing how society works."

As for Sorley, Caroline says: "It doesn't really make a huge difference to what happened to me, what she goes on to do. I'm pleased if she can use this experience to teach other people not to do this."

Isabella Sorley

More trouble

Since coming out of prison in February, Sorley has been convicted for battery, assault and being drunk and disorderly. She's also been back to prison.

She says all of these convictions are down to alcohol and now she's given up drinking and wants to warn young people of the dangers of trolling.

"I want to warn people about what happened to me, and hopefully through being known as a Twitter troll, I can help kids in the future not muck up their life the way I mucked up mine," she says.

Natalie wants Sorley to know how it feels to be on the receiving end of online abuse.

"People were telling me to go and kill myself, I should get cancer, I'm ugly, I'm a terrorist, and they're going to kill me," says Natalie.

"I'd sit at home shaking like a leaf. Terrified of everybody I meet, everything. And that's because of what people like you did."

She tells Sorley she wants her to "vow you'll never do anything like this again ever".

Sorley says she'll never send menacing tweets again, adding: "That ten minutes of my life when I sent those tweets will now define me. Always."

Isabella and Natalie
Image caption Natalie says she was 'really scared' before meeting Isabella Sorley.

So what did the women think of each other?

Natalie says that after her initial fears about meeting Sorley, she was pleased to have had the opportunity to try to understand what a convicted troll is thinking.

Sorley says: "It was emotional seeing it from the other side. I've never actually had to listen to someone who has dealt with cyber bullying."

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