Some years ago a very stupid and nasty-minded troll (a female computer science student in the UK – taking a master’s degree, as it turned out) was posting garbage into pet-related newsgroups that were frequented by children. Among other things, she advocated pouring hot wax into an animal’s ears in order to “cure” it of ear mites.
Kids don’t know when they’re being conned (which makes the troll’s activity all the more antisocial) and this was clearly a sick mind at work. Animals shouldn’t be made to suffer so some idiot can get their jollies.
So, knowing something of how the ‘Net addressing system works and where to find relevant information in the headers of newsgroup posts, I was able to track her down to a single college in the UK. Armed with her username I discovered that elsewhere she had used her real name (presumably feeling safe in her supposed anonymity).
I located an appropriate Admin contact email address, and notified them of her activity, providing evidence in the form of her newsgroup posts.
She was reported to her tutor, who (being almost totally uninformed about the ‘Net) interviewed her to try to determine the facts.
She misled him into thinking that hers was a modern philosophy that was the result of the creation of the Internet, a form of mild anarchy and a harmless and youthful protest against authority.
He swallowed the line and wrote to me to tell me that there was nothing he needed to do (even though I had pointed out that children were likely to follow her advice to pour hot wax into their pet’s ears).
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) – and this is a hallmark of these kinds of moron – the troll couldn’t keep her glee to herself.
Armed with the (mis)belief that she was now free to do whatever she liked, she crowed in one of the pet groups about how stupid her tutor was and how she’d been able to hoodwink him easily. She railed against the “nazis and fascists” and “thought police” who would attempt to constrain her activity.
So I simply posted her garbage to her tutor and asked him if he was absolutely certain that there was nothing he needed to do.
There’s nothing like being suddenly made aware that you’ve been taken for a fool to make you sit up and take notice.
His response was swift. He apologized immediately but said that he felt dismissal from the college was not warranted if there was a possibility that she might mend her ways. He arranged with the IT department to restrict her access to newsgroups that were relevant to her studies and she was placed on notice.
We never heard from her again.
No-one was trying to prevent her from contributing genuinely helpful suggestions on how to keep a pet healthy. But in behaving so irresponsibly (one might almost think she was a sociopath in the making) and with such a malignant intent, she was turning her freedom – to do whatever she wanted, without repercussions – into the oppression of others (in this case children and animals).
All that was asked of her was to be accountable for her actions. Once that happened, the oppression disappeared.