Online ‘trolling’ is just harassment by another name

For anyone who has ever logged in to a social media website, the problem of dealing with “trolls,” or people who are there solely to cause anger or to harass others, is real.

Many times, online trolls are frustrating but relatively harmless, only hoping to “get a rise” out of people. But far too often, trolls can take things way too far.

Recently, a miniscule percentage of the large fan base of the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball team took trolling too far. They found the Facebook page for the roofing business owned by a referee from an NCAA Tournament game — which Kentucky lost — and began writing outlandishly untrue reviews and provided fake poor ratings, which caused the business to suffer greatly. In fact, John Higgins, the referee and business owner, decided that he needed to not only pull down his business’ page, but get the FBI involved as well.

Because some fans felt he was a poor basketball official, they intentionally set out to ruin his livelihood.

And he’s one of the fortunate ones.

Just recently, a Jewish real estate agent in Montana decided to sue the founder of a neo-Nazi website because she says the site’s publisher orchestrated an anti-Semitic “campaign of terror” against her and her family — including her 12-year-old son.

According to the lawsuit, the publisher — Andrew Anglin — posted the woman’s family’s personal information online, which included the Twitter handle of the 12-year-old and a photo. He also caused other like-minded individuals to begin — anonymously, of course — sending emails, texts, social media posts and even making phone calls filled with slurs and references to the Holocaust.

He even asked people who disliked the woman and her family to “stop by and tell her in person what you think of her actions.”

The woman says she now suffers panic attacks, goes to bed in tears, wakes up crying and has had to take down her real estate company’s website. She also says she is too afraid to answer the phone and has kept a packed bag in her bedroom for the past three months for fear that she and her family would have to flee their home.

The trolling stems from a real estate transaction where the mother of noted white nationalist Richard Spencer claims the real estate agent threatened and harassed her until she agreed to sell the property.

You’ll have to forgive us if we don’t believe the people who think that all Jews are out to get them are telling the truth.

Internet trolling is merely harassment by another name. It’s a cowardly way to try to intimidate people under the cloak of online anonymity.

We hope this woman’s lawsuit is successful. Not only for her sake, but for the countless other people like John Higgins who have had their lives negatively impacted by such reprehensible behavior.

Harassment in any form warrants consequences. Hopefully this suit achieves just that.