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Technology

Mary Beard literally feeds a troll – and gives another a job reference

I’ve written before about how one of the most common pieces of online advice – “don’t feed the trolls” – is misguided and in fact it is far better to feed them – once that is, and then see what happens. (For the logic behind this see my piece The unsocial web.)

Academic and recipient of appalling trolling Mary Beard has taken this even further, literally feeding one troll and helping out another.

As The Guardian reports:

Academic and TV historian Mary Beard has disclosed her innovative approach to dealing with her vitriolic Twitter trolls – writing them a job reference…

[She did this for] university student Oliver Rawlings, whom she publicly named and shamed in July last year after he sent her an abusive message. Speaking in an interview with the New Yorker magazine, Beard revealed the pair had remained in touch after he took her to lunch to apologise for sending her a tweet that read: “You filthy old slut” followed by a derogatory comment about her genitalia…

“He is going to find it hard to get a job, because as soon as you Google his name that is what comes up,” she said. “And although he was a very silly, injudicious, and at that moment not very pleasant young guy, I don’t actually think one tweet should ruin your job prospects.”…

Beard told the New Yorker she had taken a similarly benevolent approach with another internet abuser who called her evil following her Question Time appearance. After an exchange of emails she discovered the troll was in fact upset about a problem with his healthcare. Beard then stepped in to lend assistance to him.

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