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Page last updated at 10:37 GMT, Monday, 6 February 2012
Chasing the internet's bullies, trolls

Cher Lloyd
Pop success Cher Lloyd has called for greater awareness of cyber-bullying

For former X-factor contestant Cher Lloyd, what should have been the stuff of teenage dreams suddenly turned into ugly, racist attacks.

"I think I must get at least 10 tweets a day saying I'm a dirty pikey," the 18-year-old pop singer told BBC Panorama about her experiences as a victim of cyberbullying.

Miss Lloyd, who shot to fame during the 2010 series of the contest, said the onslaught of comments about her mother's ethnic Roma background, left her fearing for her family's safety.

"There's been many times where I've cried myself to sleep," she said of the persistent targeting of her Facebook page and via Twitter.

"I'm very scared, and I've never, ever said that, because I like to think that people think I'm strong...but I think some days I just wish that people would leave me alone for a little bit."

I was still in a state of shock at the time when we are seeing this traumatic stuff being posted about your daughter
Andrew MacBryde, father of cyberbullying victim

A new report into online bullying by the Beatbullying charity has found that one in 13 of 11-16 year-olds in Britain said they have been the victims of persistent cyberbullying, while a full 28% of those surveyed said they had experienced it at least once.

The charity's Richard Piggin said: "Our research shows that cyberbullying, online bullying is relatively common. A large number of children receive abusive, vicious messages, have comments posted about them online, have hate pages set up about them online and to some this happens relentlessly over a period of months and months."

'RIP trolling'

According to the family of 15-year-old Natasha MacBryde from Worcestershire, the bullying, both online through social networking site Formspring and at school, drove their daughter to take her own life last February.

Find out more
Student at keyboard
Panorama: Hunting the Internet Bullies
BBC One, Monday, 6 February at 8.30pm
Then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.

The pain of their loss was further compounded by so-called internet trolls - people who anonymously target tribute pages set up to for victims. It is known as RIP trolling.

Andrew MacBryde, Natasha's father, said a family friend raised the alarm that a Facebook tribute page has been targeted within hours of his daughter's death.

"I was still in a state of shock at the time when we are seeing this traumatic stuff being posted about your daughter some disgusting and disgraceful, when most people have seen in the media, horrendous comments to see about your daughter," he said of his family's grief.

Legal gap

DS Shanie Erwin of the British Transport Police was investigating Natasha's death when she was alerted to the internet troll.

"I had never heard of trolling before so we worked with Facebook and YouTube and later with the internet service providers and enquiries with those and others led us to Sean Duffy."

Duffy, 25, was responsible for many of the posts and in the first case of its type he was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison for RIP trolling under the Malicious Communications Act.

Beatbullying's Richard Piggin said it is time for the legal system to catch up with more internet trolls and come up with a more consistent policy of finding and prosecuting offenders.

"I think there is also a variation in how the law is enforced in different cases and the level of knowledge between police officers and between police forces in terms of how to deal with cyberbullying, varies greatly.

"Perhaps what they need is in training and some understanding and some confidence with how to deal with cyberbullying."

Panorama: Hunting the Internet Bullies, BBC One, Monday, 6 February at 20:30 GMT and then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.



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