Em Ford's "Troll Hunters" Just Opened A HUGE Can Of Internet Worms
28 January 2016, 16:32 | Updated: 6 November 2017, 09:33
MyPaleSkin's Em Ford hunts down some online abusers in a new BBC documentary - but was it as well-handled as it could have been?
How many of us have faced anonymous internet hate and wished there was something we could do about it? You could probably do with a friend like Em Ford.
Best known for her beauty channel MyPaleSkin and her viral smash hit "YOU LOOK DISGUSTING", Em led her own anti-cyberbullying task force in new documentary Troll Hunters, which debuted on BBC Three last night. As part of the BBC's One Click Away season, Em spoke to a number of experts, victims and even perpetrators of online abuse to figure out what it is that makes a troll tick. She even tried to give some victims the closure they deserve, by tracking down and confronting some of their worst anonymous bullies.
More than a few women of the internet have had their share of trolls, as have a few of the guys; and so many creators from the UK tuned in last night and voiced their support for both Em and the documentary.
"Don't fear the trolls, it's not about you, it's about them." Preach it, Em!! #TrollHunters— Mandy Celine (@itsamandything) January 27, 2016
i think #TrollHunters needs to become a regular thing.— J o n a t h a n (@JonathanJoly) January 27, 2016
As well as shedding some light on the abuse that some of the people feature in the documentary faced, Troll Hunters also inspired some of its viewers to share some of their own experiences of trolling, as a sign of solidarity.
Having been trolled before,I feel for those who get it every day. My trolling was mild compared to most and it was still awful #TrollHunters— Amy / Salt and Chic (@saltandchic) January 27, 2016
"We might be mentioned in her suicide note" is one of the worst things said to me I think. Nothing surprises me anymore tbh. #TrollHunters— Leanne Woodfull (@LeanneWoodfull) January 27, 2016
Not all of the reaction to the doc has been praise, however; Troll Hunters was also inevitably met with quite varied criticism. The choice to feature former Conservative party member and Sun columnist Louise Mensch as a victim of trolling was met with a lot of backlash - particularly since Mensch herself has a reputation for bullying and leaking information of people, most recently teenage Labour campaigner and "Millifandom" founder Abby Tomlinson.
It still gets to me that she spent months writing false articles about me online/ generally making me feel awful about myself.— Abby Tomlinson (@twcuddleston) January 27, 2016
Wait a minute - #TrollHunters is a thing, but Louise Mensch ISN'T the troll? As in the disgraced MP who very publicly cyber-bullied a teen?— John Shafthauer (@hourlyterrier) January 28, 2016
Louise Mensch, who spent months badgering a 16 year old girl online and in her Sun column has a go at a guy for trolling. Lol #TrollHunters— James Gleave (@jamesgleave1) January 27, 2016
Additionally, Em interviewed convicted troll Stewart McInroy, who was jailed for taunting the family of Allan Bryant; a Scottish man who has been missing since 2013. As you may expect, prominently featuring McInroy in the documentary obviously didn't sit well with those who had been directly affected.
Stewart McInroy needs professional mental help NOT to be screened on tele to get millions of views !! Are u thick as hell bbc3 ????— Amy Bryant (@amybryantxx) January 27, 2016
And of course, sadly, not all the criticism was valid or constructive; there was plenty of trolling going on in the hashtag too. We're going to avoid sharing any of it here, because if the documentary has taught us anything, it's that most online trolls are in it for the validation.
Dealing with online abuse is without question a minefield; Acknowledging it at all is reactionary enough, but ignoring it doesn't quite provide the desired effect that everyone says it will. We're proud of Em for leading the charge in confronting some of these trolls, and being able to do so on such a prominent platform as the BBC; but by not only just providing trolls with airtime, but featuring those that are guilty of the same offences and portraying them as victims, did Troll Hunters provide the intended impact, or just undermine its own message?
We'll leave you to consider this with a more positive featurette from Em and body confidence campaigner Harnaam Kaur, known for the abuse she faced for growing a beard, as they offer some of the best tips for dealing with trolls online.