UK

Mother targeted by online trolls reveals her six-year ordeal

Distressed woman Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Crown prosecutors have been given new guidelines on prosecuting online abuse

A mother targeted by trolls who posted indecent images of her daughter online during a six-year hate campaign has told the BBC of her ordeal.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, has moved house three times after being harassed by trolls who cloned her social media accounts and accused her of being a paedophile.

She claims they doctored images of her daughter, then 10, to make them pornographic and uploaded them on to sexual websites before sending the links to the mother over social media.

The trolls also visited her home and took photographs of her child, who has Down's syndrome, as she waited for a bus, she added, saying that despite her reporting the harassment to the police, the family has continued to be targeted.

She said the online hate campaign had left her daughter feeling "scared" and the family were desperate for the harassment to end.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The woman says internet trolls doctored images of her daughter to make them pornographic

"I'm just tired of it all. I just want someone to put an end to it. I can't go on like this for another six years," she told the BBC News website.

"I go into town and I have to look over my shoulder. My daughter is very nervous. She can't separate what is happening online from real life.

"She gets very scared. It's affecting our lives."

The woman, from Surrey, said the online abuse started when a friend wrote a book about internet trolls - anonymously - and mentioned her by name in the text after she helped with the research.

She said the trolls started abusing her in an attempt to get her to reveal the identity of her friend - but she refused.

"They created clones of my social media accounts. I've had 200 clones made of me. They cloned my little girl's account as well," she went on.

"They used my photographs. I had done an interview about trolling and they took a still from that and changed the caption to read 'paedophile who pimps her 10-year-old child out to men'.

"They started an abuse campaign saying I'm a paedophile and contacted local businesses where I used to live telling them this.

"This is what they like to do. They like to defame people in the hope that if they put enough pressure on you you'll give in to what they want."

'Nothing will stop them'

The woman claims the trolls were able to get hold of her telephone number and address after she submitted forms to social media sites complaining at the use of the images of her daughter.

She said they turned up at her house and took photographs of her child as she waited for a bus.

"They started calling me non-stop. It was 2am, 3am and 4am," said the woman. "They said they would petrol-bomb my house. It goes on and on.

"The worst of these incidents has been the photos of my child with pornography and the trolls physically coming to my house and taking photos outside of her waiting for the bus and posting them.

Using an abusive term, they had written "Oh look, the... is waiting for the bus," she told the BBC.

"I'm just fed up with it. I don't respond or interact. I block them and report them to the police but it seems like nothing will stop them.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption The woman believes the trolls have yet to be prosecuted

The woman said she reported the harassment to the police in 2010 but the abuse has continued.

A magistrate issued a search warrant for two of the suspects' addresses in August this year and officers attended the homes and confiscated computers and mobile phones.

The woman has spoken out about her ordeal after the Crown Prosecution Service published fresh guidance on Monday identifying types of online behaviour which could be classed as a criminal offence.

She said: "The police need to take trolling much more seriously. They seem to think that it's harmless and people are expressing their free speech, but it's hate speech.

"I hope that these trolls are made accountable for their crimes and they will actually be arrested and prosecuted.

"All these laws are great but the police have to actually arrest these people and get the evidence and I don't see that happening."

Surrey Police said it was investigating the allegations.

A spokesman said: "In August we carried out warrants at a number of addresses and seized computer equipment, which is still being examined. Enquiries are ongoing.

"Surrey Police will not tolerate language used in a public place, including on social media websites, which causes harassment, alarm or distress."

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