Mary Beard on why she chose to befriend her trolls

Broadcaster and classicist Mary Beard, who was the victim of serious online abuse in January 2013 after an appearance on Question Time, disclosed she's befriended her former trolls.

In a profile for The New Yorker, the Cambridge University professor revealed her approach for tackling online criticism and trolling.

For example, in one particular case Mary, 59, decided to post up an offensive photo of herself on her blog, in which one troll had superimposed a picture of female genitalia on her face.

The offender then wrote a letter to Mary apologising for his behaviour:

“He explained his personal circumstances—he was married with kids—and he said how he should never have done it, in a way that was very eloquent.”

In another instance, a viewer wrote to her and called her "evil" after her appearance on Question Time. But it turned out he was just angry because he was trying to make a move abroad to Spain and was fed up with the bureaucracy.

Mary then helped him out by doing a bit of research into the health-care system for him and sent it over. Now, whenever she faces any online abuse, he's one of the first to email her and ask if she's OK.

But that's not all she's done for her former trolls. One student who decided to tweet her an offensive tweet was so ashamed of his behaviour, he travelled to Cambridge and took her out to lunch.

Ever forgiving, Mary even writes him references for jobs, as she doesn't believe that one moment of silliness should cost him his future.

“He is going to find it hard to get a job, because as soon as you Google his name that is what comes up. 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.”

(Images: Rex Features)


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