Tuesday 20 March 2018

Internet troll 'regrets' vile hate campaign against senator Lorraine Higgins

Labour senator Lorraine Higgins
Labour senator Lorraine Higgins

David Kearns

An internet troll who subjected a Labour senator to months of abuse and death threats has apologised for his actions, writing in a letter that he was “horrified” by his behaviour.

Senator Lorraine Higgins said she was surprised by the man’s apology “given the intensity of the threats he made” but that she appreciated that he had shown remorse for his actions and words.

“I’m glad this particular man now believes that this kind of language and abuse isn’t acceptable,” she told Independent.ie.

Read More: File goes to DPP over 'vile abuse' toward Labour senator

“I just wish that the two other men involved in targeting me felt it was worth their time to also show remorse for their actions.”

Ms Higgins reported the threats to Gardai after she was told her head would be ripped off her shoulders and “shoved where the sun doesn’t shine.”

“Let’s just say that’s the line he used,” she said. “There was a high level of violence threatened against me and my family so I felt contacting the Gardai was the correct response.

A copy of the letter sent to Ms Higgins
A copy of the letter sent to Ms Higgins

“The nature of some of the abuse has been sent to the DPP to decide if a prosecution is warranted,” she added.

In his apology to the Labour senator, the man said he was “deeply sorry” for any distress he may have caused Ms Higgins and her family.

Read More: Senator branded 'whore' by web trolls fights back

He said he felt “horrible” for his actions, but that anything he was feeling now “paled in comparision to how” Ms Higgins must have felt at the time.

“I am deeply sorry for… letting my misplaced frustrations towards politicaqs matters get the better of me,” he wrote in his letter to the Senator.

“At the time I was unemployed, stressed, and deeply unhappy with my own sisition… I now realise that those comments were extremely inconsiderate and offensive, and for that I’m deeply sorry.”

Asked if she had ever been told to simply ignore the abuse, the Labour senator said: “I take the view that people are being re-victimised when they’re told to just turn off their internet. It implies they shouldn’t have been there in the first place.

Read More: I disagree with you. So that makes you a whore

Ms Higgins said she had found the response from social media firms “disappointing” when she reached out to them to help stop the abuse.

“I was frustrated by the abuse partly because I contacted a lot of social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to ask them what they could do about abuse,” said the Galway representative.

“But unfortunately I never got what I felt was a satisfactory answer.

“When you see companies like this availing of Ireland’s special tax status, it’s quite annoying to hear they can’t help tackle this kind of bullying.

“They might be above Irish tax law, but they shouldn’t be above the law in general,” she added.

Read More: Internet trolls face €5k fine or year in prison with new bill

The Labour senator recently proposed a bill to make cyberbullying a criminal offence, and yesterday Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the ‘Harmful and Malicious  Electronic Communications Bill’ would be allowed to pass unopposed in the Seanad.

The bill will make it an offence to share any message that incites someone to commit harm to themselves. 

It would also provide for up to 12 months in jail, and fines of €5,000, for anyone guilty of cyberbullying.

"This is not about me, it's about vulnerable children. We have to make our online communities safer.

“We’ve had three suicides now in Ireland from teenagers bullied online. This can’t be allowed to continue. A deterrent is needed, and its time Ireland stepped up and delivered one.”

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