Comics Professionals Tackle Online Twitter Troll
Online harassment is, sadly, so much a part of the Comics Internet - Hell, the Internet in general, depressingly - that it can sometimes be very easy to become immune to it, even accidentally; insults or abuse become glossed over as we tut to ourselves, think troll and move on to something else. Idiots who would rather derail conversations instead of contribute to them, throwing insults instead of comments at those around them, are the price we have to pay for online communities, we find ourselves thinking. But not all trolls are equal, and thankfully, some people aren't too desensitized to recognize that.This, then, is the story of someone who calls himself JonVee. Or, perhaps, John V. Or even MisterE2009, at times. To say that this individual is a troll feels like an insult to other trolls; he's a particularly unpleasant person who seems to specialize in misogynistic attack, often along the lines of threatening female creators or fans with rape, although he's shown himself to be perfectly happy trolling male creators with racial abuse or just generic hate based upon their comments, work or political leanings (Rich Johnston has a greatest hits of sorts at Bleeding Cool, but I warn you that it can make for distressing reading, and is arguably NSFW depending on your work's feelings about certain language).
John V had been doing this kind of thing for quite some time, and was well-known for his Twitter rants and message board potshots. As Heidi Macdonald explained on The Beat, "we all just ignored him. It was nothing new... Frankly, I never brought this up before because John V. was looking for attention and hoping to frighten people and I didn't want to give him any more attention." And then, in one of life's "be careful what you wish for" moments, he got more attention than he may have wanted after trolling Ron Marz on Twitter and finding Marz in fine form. Marz's Tweets caught the attention of Mark Millar, who took the subject to his message board:
Okay, Ron Marz just alerted his followers to this and as I read through all the posts this guy @MisterE2009 made on Twitter I couldn't believe what I was seeing. He was specifically targeting female writers, artists and comic-journalists with the most horrific abuse ranging from sexual threats to them personally or - in one case - mocking them for being a wheel-chair user.
As male pros we maybe live in a little bubble. This might go on more than we realise. But we need to clamp down on this shit fast... ethically, if not because many of these pros are personal friends of ours. Comics has the coolest rep with people now. It's a broad church and much less of a boys club in particular than it was when I was a kid. This kind of thing just gives us a horrible name and we owe it to ourselves as well as the pros concerned to stop it.
So I'm asking you guys a favour. I've managed to secure this guy's name and address, but he's stateside and I'm unsure what the next step should be. In the UK, he would be charged by the police under the Malicious Communications act, but we have a lot of smart cookies on here and I know there's several US attorneys who post here regularly. If we have his details and copies of his communication, how can he be prosecuted? If any of the pros who have been attacked here would like to make a case against him I'll personally cover the legal costs. Twitter, I would imagine, can confirm his IP address if the artists make a formal complaint to the police.
Would anyone like to help me make the next step? If we make an example of this guy and really come down hard on him legally you're pretty damn sure idiots will think twice about doing the same in future. It's not enough to just block him. He can just start up again under a new name. But a very public shaming and a news story in his part of California (with a complete list of his recent tweets to the women concerned) feels appropriate and would be a massive warning shot for others not to copy.
I hope you feel a little scared by this @mister@2009. You should be.
Within hours of that message, Millar updated by saying,
Guy has been tracked down. Lives in California and is both married and middle aged. Don't go googling as you'll find innocent people. Leave in hands of cops now and any people he abused should get in touch with our board who can give [you] direct line.
The next day, he updated again:
I engaged a criminal lawyer in LA yesterday and have one of the women involved co-ordinating with the others today, hopefully. I don't want to say much more in a public forum just now as it may prejudice the case and between the details we've got and the tweets we saved the police have everything they need. Even if this doesn't go to court the guy should hopefully be publicly outed in California and the shame of this will not only stop him attacking women online, but also discourage others from trying this in future. I found out last night that this idiot had been making sexual threats to some of the women concerned for over two years now.
Again, I stress that readers shouldn't try googling the names he's using as innocent parties may get targeted. He's using false names for the most part, as you might expect. His IP address is all that matters and we've nailed the clown. This is a police matter now.
The Twitter accounts known to belong to John V have been closed down, although it remains to be seen whether he'll resurface with another pseudonym and start the same behavior again despite the threat of legal action. It'd be nice to think that this is the end of it, but it's not, of course; even if John V disappears from the Internet to places less vitriolic, there will doubtless be others to replace him in terms of thoughtless rhetoric or hate speech. This isn't to try to detract from what Marz, Millar, and the women and men working on this behind the scenes have accomplished, because that's a great thing, but more of a resigned wish that people could behave like rational adults on the Internet a little bit more - I know, I know; I'll be asking for peace on Earth next - making this kind of thing a moot point in future. We can but hope, right?