If you follow this case closely you may be aware of how frightening the trolls in the online community have become in recent weeks. In the last month, someone created a fake phone number to send journalist Maggie Freleng (and her family) threatening texts. Someone catfishing as a real UMass grad spoke to me over the phone using a fake number in an attempt to get me to publish a defamatory story. At the same time, someone posted pornographic images on Reddit, in an attack on a podcaster who works with the Murray family. A simple subject search on Twitter will pull up threads that are hundreds of posts long, where people say the absolute worst things about each other – trying to guess who is who – while they explain how “righteous” they are being in order to find the truth.
These people send constant threatening messages to journalists who cover the case by using fake accounts on Reddit.
I don’t know how the others are dealing with it, but this last year I’ve had to purchase a security system for my house and take other precautions for my family’s safety. It’s hurtful and taxing for everyone.
I understand and appreciate that the Murray family has larger concerns. Their focus has always been to simply find Maura, as it should be. Unfortunately, Julie Murray, as the family spokesperson, has been put in a position where these trolls serve to do the bidding of a person whose unspoken intentions they imagine in their twisted minds – all is fair in the search for Maura.
But by not speaking out, by not telling them to stop, these trolls see that as tacit permission from the family to continue their attacks.
I don’t know who is doing this. Best case scenario is that it’s one crazy person. I hope that’s the case. Otherwise, it says some really sad things about our society. I wish they’d stop.
I know the police are involved and are taking a close look at not just the harassment online but also the harassment against law enforcement that is happening offline. Hopefully they can subpoena these accounts and get to the bottom of it.
For the record, I have never used a fake twitter account or Reddit account. After I was threatened, I made my Facebook account private and changed it to a new name, a mash-up of my kids’ names, actually, since it was limited to my immediate family. I used that account to reach out to sources who could only be found on Facebook, sometimes, but was always clear about who I was and why my message was coming from an account that wasn’t my name. I changed it back, recently, to be more transparent.
While these trolls continue to cause chaos, people who are in communication with the Murrays, are also harassing my research assistants and friends. Which is pointless, as neither I nor them are actively researching this case anymore. We have all moved on to other cases. Short of someone sending me breaking news, I’m doing zero work on this.
I fear this is all one big Live Action Role Playing Game to some, using the lives of real people in their delusion that there is a “good” side and a “bad” side to this story. The Maura Murray case, to them, has become a religion and they have anointed themselves as evangelicals.
And the worst thing that could have happened already has – the police can no longer trust the information that’s coming in.
Please do not harass or dox people who disagree with you. You are only causing pain and heartache.