Troll Aid: How a Calais charity is using online abuse to raise money to help refugees

People are encouraged to reply to trolls' tweets with a link to Calais Action's fundraising page

Peter Walker
Thursday 28 January 2016 14:59 GMT
Calais Action is raising money for refugees in France and Greece through its crowd-funding page
Calais Action is raising money for refugees in France and Greece through its crowd-funding page (Reuters)

Abusive online trolls are inadvertently raising money for refugees thanks to one woman’s social media strategy.

Libby Freeman’s Calais Action, devoted to delivering essentials such as clothing to thousands at the French port and more recently in Greece, introduced the innovative TrollAid on Tuesday.

When someone criticises the charity on Facebook or Twitter, typically posting anti-refugee or racist sentiment, the group replies with a rehearsed response and a link inviting all and sundry to donate.

Libby, a 34-year-old Hackney-based set designer, says the initiative is as much about education as it is about "shutting down" trolls.

"We've always had issues on social media," said Libby, originally from Northampton.

"There is a very big split in the country and in Europe as to whether people are dead against helping refugees or for it.

"We were talking about the problem when my friend said what about if people could sign up to some kind of initiative, or pledge, every time someone puts something negative on the page."

Libby struggles to count the number of trolls the charity has witnessed, believing about "40-odd" have been banned, but one comment in particular sticks in her memory:

The abuse posted to Calais Action's Facebook page

Calais Action will respond with a link to its message on Facebook, and a Crowdfunding page, which reads:

"Introducing TrollAid - A way for trolls to directly raise money for refugees."

Calais Action Info PackFollowing on the success from our Q&A on the 19th December, LOTS of you are asking what you can...

Posted by Calais Action on Thursday, 24 December 2015

The page has raised more than £800 since its launch.

In a further tongue-in-cheek twist, the charity can later grace the troll with the news of how much they have single-handedly raised if people have accompanied their donation with a personal "thanks" to the troll.

Libby, who previously handed out duvets to homeless people in London, first drove out to Calais with six others in two Transit vans in August.

The Calais Action team and members from the Sunday Assembly (Calais Action)

Most recently the team shipped out a container to refugees in Greece filled with 1,200 survival packs containing hats, gloves, toys and messages.

"I first drove down because the Government wasn’t doing anything, or any other charities, and it just felt really inhumane," added Libby.

There are more than an estimated 7,000 refugees in the "Calais "Jungle".

Libby says anyone is welcome to respond to their own Twitter trolls with the same link to the crowdfunding page.

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