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‘We’re normal people’: Women being targeted by trolls using online gossip forum ‘Tattle Life’

Written by on 11/08/2021

Women say their mental health and reputations are being damaged by trolls targeting them on a gossip forum.

Lauren Harris says she’d never heard of the website Tattle Life until a friend messaged her to say she was on it.

“The comments started with gossip, just people wanting to know more about me that I hadn’t shared on social media. But then it got more toxic,” says Ms Harris.

Ms Stobart (left) and Ms Harris have both been talked about on Tattle Life and they both said reading the messages impacted their mental health negatively
Image: Ashely Stobart (left) and Lauren Harris have both been talked about on Tattle Life and they both said reading the messages impacted their mental health negatively

Ms Harris says her Instagram following has grown in recent years. She now has 23,000 followers.

“As I did more on Instagram, the comments got worse on Tattle Life.”

She says the most damaging posts involved some of the site’s users speculating about her income.

“They actually wrote that I was a drug dealer. That isn’t gossip, those are serious allegations that are untrue, and you can’t take back one once they’re out there.”

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Tattle Life describes itself as a “commentary website”. It has a gossip forum where users can write about people under categories including “Bloggers” and “Celebs”.

The most popular section is “Instagrammers”.

Lauren Harris (left) and Ashley Stobart started a podcast called Nip, Tuck, Not Giving a F***, where they talk about online bullying and their experiences with Tattle Life
Image: Ms Harris (left) and Ms Stobart started a podcast called Nip, Tuck, Not Giving a F***, where they talk about online bullying and their experiences with Tattle Life

Ms Harris says the posts on the site go way beyond gossip.

She noticed that when she posted a picture of a friend on social media, they then became part of the conversation on the forum.

Ashley Stobart says she was horrified at what users were writing about her after spotting her on Ms Harris’s Instagram.

Despite believing that people should not be able to be anonymous online, Ms Sheldon acknowledges this would be difficult due to privacy concerns. Pic Em Sheldon
Image: Despite believing that people should not be able to be anonymous online, Ms Sheldon acknowledges this would be difficult due to privacy concerns. Pic: Em Sheldon

“I just don’t have the mental capacity to take some of that stuff in. They ridicule your looks, they ridicule how you are as a mother,” says Ms Stobart.

“We’re normal people, we’re mums, we’re not going on [social media] and promoting weight loss products and getting paid thousands of pounds, we don’t have fashion endorsements.”

Ms Harris and Ms Stobart have now started a podcast series, called Nip, Tuck, Not Giving a F***, where they talk about online bullying and their experiences with Tattle Life.

Ms Sheldon is one of many who have been subject to trolls on Tattle Life's gossip forum. Pic Em Sheldon
Image: Ms Sheldon is one of many who have been subject to trolls on Tattle Life’s gossip forum. Pic: Em Sheldon

“We wanted to be able to speak back to these people. Their posts made my mental health so bad. It gave me such terrible anxiety,” says Ms Harris.

Em Sheldon is a fashion and lifestyle blogger who has also been talked about on Tattle Life. She installed cameras at her home, after reading posts containing details about her property.

“This is the scariest thing. It goes into more than just talking about someone’s appearance. It’s a privacy and a security thing. I don’t think anyone should feel unsafe ever,” says Ms Sheldon.

Ms Sheldon thinks trolls shouldn’t be able to hide behind anonymous profiles.

Em Sheldon had to install security cameras outside her house after reading the messages on Tattle Life. Pic Em Sheldon
Image: Ms Sheldon had to install security cameras outside her house after reading the messages on Tattle Life. Pic: Em Sheldon

“It would be great if there was a way of protecting everyone that meant people had some form of ID connected to a social media account,” she says.

But she acknowledges that would be a difficult policy to enforce because of privacy concerns.

Imran Ahmed is the chief executive of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate.

He says there are other ways to crack down on abuse online and explains that advertisers often don’t know where their content is being used.

“We’ve argued for a transparency bill, which would actually help advertisers to find out where their ads are appearing, and ask them to publish that on their website,” Mr Ahmed says.

“If that happened, no advertiser would take the risk of allowing their ads to appear on sites that might damage their brand.”

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In a statement, Tattle Life said, “Tattle life has a zero-tolerance policy towards content that is hateful, abusive, threatening and we take the privacy of social media influencers far more seriously than they do themselves in many cases.

“We’re far more stringent with our rules and moderation than any of the big social media companies on our moderated forum.

“We allow commentary, critique and praise of people that choose to monetize their personal life as a business and release it into the public domain.

“Like all social media sites anyone can join and post a comment and we encourage people to report any that overstep the line as we take all reports very seriously. People that come to post abusive or hateful content are banned.”

 Sky News

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