Belfast Telegraph

Social media trolls drive man to his death - heartbroken sister calls for government crackdown

'Toxic online trolls drove my brother to take his life... now I want a law to end this abuse'

Kenny Gregg and sister Carolyn
Kenny Gregg and sister Carolyn
Kenny with his daughter Esme
Kenny Gregg with younger sister Carolyn
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

The heartbroken sister of a young father-of-one who took his own life after being targeted on social media has urged the Government to clamp down on internet trolls.

Kenny Gregg, a 27-year-old chef from Dundonald, died by suicide earlier this year, leaving behind his devastated family and his little daughter, Esme, who turned two last month.

His younger sister Carolyn, who has now started an online petition to mark Mental Health Week, said she hopes to persuade the government to introduce a law to prevent people being targeted on social media.

Carolyn explained how Mr Gregg was caused great distress when he was targeted by an online troll. "He always worried about what other people thought of him so when that happened he couldn't think of any other way out. My mum found him dead in bed," she said.

"He had sent me a message just before he died, telling me he loved me, but I didn't see it until after I heard the terrible news."

She added: "People shouldn't be able to get away with making somebody feel so low that taking their life is the only outcome.

"With suicide being rife in Northern Ireland and the world, I'm taking a stand against it."

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Carolyn's call comes on the day that the UK's first suicide prevention minister said that social media platforms need to clamp down on internet trolls and harmful content, to stop the "Wild West" nature of the internet.

Jackie Doyle-Price said tech giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter should put more emphasis on removing worrying content like hurtful comments and self-harm videos in order to create a less toxic online environment.

And she called for a "cultural change" which would mean online trolling would be deemed as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.

Single mum Carolyn (25), who has one son, Carter-Lee (8), and two daughters, Darcy (5) and Niyah (18 months), said her mother Ann and father Kenneth (both 55) are, like her, still struggling with their only son's death.

"Kenny went through a bad period from July 2018; he was depressed and put on anti-depressants by the doctor," the waitress supervisor said.

"We thought he was getting better but we now know he was struggling... we never saw the pain behind the smile."

Carolyn added: "Things were also written about him on social media and he couldn't deal with it.

"He had actually emailed some of the negative material to his solicitor the day before he took his own life."

Carolyn said her mother found Kenny's lifeless body in his bed in the home he shared with his parents on January 3 after he took an overdose.

She said that before his suicide, he had sent her a message on Facebook telling her he loved her, while he had also posted an image of a single heart on his home page on the social media site.

"I didn't get his message until the next morning - but when I saw that, and then the heart, I put two and two together and I knew what he'd meant to do," she said.

"Before this all happened Kenny was always happy and he made other people happy; he was always smiling."

Her petition on change.org attracted over 200 signatures in less than 24 hours and Carolyn said she is hoping to get the 10,000 needed to make a difference.

"So many people are quick to judge our health care system but not a lot of people actually know the social media side-effects of things and there should be harsher consequences for trolls," she said.

"I would like this petition to get enough signatures to put in front of our government, to put a stop to people being targeted on the internet and social media.

"I would like our government to make a law against this, so people cannot get away with making somebody feel this low that taking their life is the outcome. Something needs to be done about this sooner rather than later - and definitely before we lose more lives."

A government consultation is currently under way over how to make users safer on the internet.

The Online Harms White Paper proposes establishing a new duty of care towards users, overseen by an independent regulator.

Companies will be held to account for tackling a comprehensive set of online harms, ranging from illegal activity and content to behaviours which are harmful but not necessarily illegal, the Government said.

Failure to fulfil this duty of care will result in enforcement action such as a company fine or individual liability on senior management.

If you, or anyone close to you, is affected by any issues in this article, please contact the Samaritans free on 116123 or Lifeline on 0808 808 8000

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