Podcaster Ashley Stobart, 31, says of Tattle Life – ‘jealous people have gone on to that site just to slander us’ (Image: MEN MEDIA)
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Influencers and ordinary mums are being targeted by vicious and jealous trolls who post intimate claims about their personal lives – and even try to get their kids taken off them – on gossip forum Tattle Life.
The gossip site first appeared in around 2018, posing as a 'commentary website' on public social media profiles with the aim of holding to account Instagram influencers and YouTubers who financially profit from sharing content.
However on the forum's terms and rules page, it proudly boasts that there is "no moderating", and tells Tattle users if there is a post they do not like to "keep scrolling".
Users are later warned that "discussion of moderation is to be avoided" and told: "don't attempt to shut down the conversation", reports the Manchester Evening News.
Creators of the forum proclaim that the site has a "zero-tolerance policy" for messages containing threatening behaviour, hate speech, harassment, abusive language or derogatory remarks.
But the site has been widely criticised for creating a platform which facilitates users, who are largely female, to hide behind fake profiles and bully their chosen victims.
Lauren Harris, 31, from Rossendale, was shocked when a friend messaged to tell her she was being discussed on Tattle Life
(Image: MEN MEDIA)
Threads loaded with hundreds of hateful comments have been created to discuss high-profile social media personalities such as former Love Island contestant Molly-Mae Hague, cleaning influencer Mrs Hinch, and singer Stacey Solomon.
One thread created by the user 'lozzapaloozza' and titled 'A salad a day keeps moron Molly-Mae away' has been viewed over 1,000 times and received over 900 comments.
The Tattle Life "VIP member" uses a picture of Molly-Mae as her avatar, and her profile boasts a "reaction score" of 36,730.
Another thread is packed with derogatory comments about Meghan Markle's appearance.
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One user writes: "She has a demonic look about her, like all those old paintings where the devil is depicted. I get 'evil' vibes from her. With the excessive surgery, she now looks like a demonic doll."
Such relentless, vile abuse of high-profile stars in the world of TV, sport and celebrity culture is sadly commonplace across all social media platforms.
But on Tattle Life users are now taking a step further. Now they are targeting ordinary people too.
Manchester hairdresser Rachel has grown used to waking up daily to find hundreds of abusive messages on her phone.
The young mum's notifications are full of venom.
The messages read: "Let's see her perfect life fall apart," "She doesn't deserve to be a mother," "I'll ruin your life."
Over the past few months, Rachel has become the victim of a vicious and unrelenting online hate campaign at the hands of anonymous trolls.
She became the target of trolls after launching her her successful hairdressing business via Instagram.
Rachel says has always been aware of the pitfalls of displaying intimate parts of her life on social media.
But recently her online reputation has been taking a battering on the dark, toxic internet forum named Tattle Life.
"Do they want me to kill myself? What do they want?"
Shortly after setting up a new Instagram last year after her old account was hacked, Rachel noticed that a thread had been created about her on the Tattle Life forum.
She says the abuse and harassment she received over the space of several months nearly drove her to breaking point.
She has requested a pseudonym be used for this story as she fears another onslaught of abuse.
"At first it was just people saying who this person is, she must have bought her followers because she's grown in a week," she said.
"But obviously it was just because all my previous followers and clients had found my new page.
"Then the abuse just got horrific."
Ashley Stobart and Lauren Harris host the cosmetic surgery and beauty podcast “Nip Tuck, Don’t Give a F***”
(Image: MEN MEDIA)
Some of Rachel's family members are currently serving prison sentences – something the hairdresser says has only motivated her to create a better life for her and her young son.
Tattle Life users capitalise on such information by littering the forum pages with "doxxing" – the act of publicly revealing previously private information.
Defenders of the forum claim they carry this out with the well-intentioned purpose of exposing scams or dishonesty from those profiting from publicising their personal lives.
But dedicated forum pages for influencers often feature third-hand accounts of private and personal information, as well as users claiming to be ex-schoolmates or partners, supposedly revealing details about their past.
And some users like to take it a step further and play detective.
"It's nothing to do with anyone and it's not something that I discuss online," Rachel said.
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"But then someone on Tattle Life somehow got hold of all the prison and court documents, and posted them asking how I lived such a lavish life, which I don't.
"It turned into a hate campaign where they were even phoning social services and trying to get my son taken away from me.
"They were making up lies saying I curl my hair with my son there and that he's going to get burnt. They were calling me a terrible mother and I was getting daily messages saying I was a scumbag."
Rachel says the messages quickly turned dark and frightening in nature, with claims that one user threatened: 'I'll get that boy who took off you and ruin your life.'
As a single mum trying her best to cope during the coronavirus pandemic, she says the abuse became a daily routine.
Ashley at her wedding to husband Ed Stobart
(Image: Instagram/ @thecosmeticconsult)
"These people were putting messages out to try and find people who I went to mum's clubs with," she said.
"When I got my hairdressing salon the people that owned the building Googled me and were reluctant to give me the space because of everything that was posted on Tattle.
"Anything I did, they tried to destroy it."
For several months, every morning Rachel said she received messages calling her a scumbag and that she didn't deserve to be a mum.
She admitted having days where she would have to phone a friend or close family member and ask them to look after her son, as the emotional toll of the abuse became too much for her.
"For a long time it was the lowest I've ever felt in my life," she said.
"I couldn't get out of bed. I said to my sister do they want me to kill myself? What do they want? It felt like they wanted me to hit the lowest and I did.
"When people think it's just a few messages and that you should ignore them, you can't – they were trying to ruin my life.
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"People started to unfollow me on Instagram. I've worked so hard to get where I am and it is so upsetting to see your life fall apart.
"I know all they wanted me to say was that I've been given everything and that I've never worked for anything just to make them feel better about themselves.
"Everyone I see who gets abused on Tattle Life are successful women who have done this on their own and all I can put it down to is their insecurities that they can't do that."
"We're not celebrities, we're literally just normal people"
Rachel is among scores of influencers who have used their platform to speak out about the site, and there are currently eight active petitions on Change.org calling for Tattle Life to be taken down.
Lauren Harris, 31, from Rossendale, was shocked to discover that she was being discussed on Tattle Life pages – when a friend messaged her to ask if she'd seen the comments.
What she discovered was reams of gossip about her love life, questioning her skills as a mum, people asking how she earns money, and disgusting claims that she was either a "prostitute or drug dealer" for going on a holiday to Dubai.
Lauren says: "It is just vile, and so upsetting."
She posts photos about her life on her personal Instagram page @laurenelizabeth_xx which has 21,000 followers.
After scrolling through the comments, she discovered that one of her best friends, Ashley Stobart, 31, from Hale, was also getting the Tattle Life treatment too.
It led the friends, who both work in the cosmetic surgery industry, to launch their own podcast, "Nip Tuck, not giving a F**k" with their first episode allowing them the opportunity to address all the Tattle Life claims – and set the record straight.
Ashley said: "We’re not celebrities, we’re literally just normal people and yet jealous people have gone on to that site just to slander us.
"Anyone can say anything on there without any comeback, yet it could ruin your life. When someone googles our name that’s what comes up."
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Both women are mums – Ashley does not share photos of her two-year-old daughter on her social media business page @cosmeticconsult, while Lauren does share photos of her three-year-old daughter on her Instagram.
Both decisions were criticised on the gossip site – with the trolls slamming Ashley for "never showing her kid" on Instagram suggesting she is a bad mum and never with her child, while Lauren was criticised for going on holiday without her child.
Lauren says: "There are different things that frustrate us about it, not just that it’s mean, and a lot of it is totally untrue, but that it seems to be mostly women talking about other women.
"The upsetting thing is it’s women, the way they’re judging us and being mothers."
Ashley said: "I get absolutely slated on there because I’ve chosen not to post my child on social media. I would never judge someone for it.
Some victims of trolling on the site felt too scared to use their real name as they feared even more abuse (Stock photo)
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
"I leave to go to work every day and she’s in a safe happy place but I get slated for it. Women if you can't leave your child to get to work how are you going to be successful in life?"
In their podcast, Lauren revealed the extent of the claims against her, including that she was either a drug dealer or a prostitute.
She said: "When I was reading through some of the main points that irritated me so much, these are lies, but with such conviction, some of it is so false yet they’re so sure about it.
"One was that a previous mistake of mine bought me a car, which isn’t true, the other thing was that I’m a drug dealer, I deal drugs. I don’t deal drugs.
"That’s absolutely ridiculous.
"Another thing was my lifestyle. When I went to Dubai on holiday and I was actually prostituting out there apparently? I wasn’t, but that’s what they were saying.
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"People assume that you can’t just have a good job, we couldn’t have possibly made money from anything else?"
The girls have now taken the decision to block the site from their phones so they can't see what is written about them. But they firmly believe something needs to be done to regulate such websites so that others don't suffer abuse as they have.
One petition set up by Michelle Chapman, otherwise known as YouTuber Mummy Chelle, has been signed over 60,000 times.
She claims to have received "relentless abuse, bullying, harassment, discrimination and doxxing" on the site.
"I’ve done nothing wrong to warrant this, all because I make YouTube videos. This is not acceptable. I’ve had my looks, my health and more spoken about very derogatory," she writes.
"They’ve even been really cruel about my young children. This can’t go on. This is affecting myself in a very big way and many others too. Due to the nature of this I have police involvement.
"I emailed the owner of the website and was told to contact the admin of the forum which I did but got banned.
"This isn’t acceptable. We are human beings. I’m suffering terribly with my mental health over this. Bullying can lead to suicide. Is that what it’s going to take before this forum gets removed?"
Several similar petitions have been launched by other influencers who have also found themselves being targeted on the website.
The Rules of Tattle
On the website's Terms and Rules section, it clearly states that abusive or hateful messages should not be posted.
But when reporters checked the forum, we noted countless derogatory and hateful remarks spanning months which had not been removed by administrators.
The forum is packed with such content, including a comment about one influencer, reading: "God she's a c*** I'd f****** love someone to knock her down a peg or hundred. She really is an insufferable t***".
The comment has received several 'likes'.
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The rules also state; "No messages that are a privacy concern. Even if an influencer releases private information themselves we can't allow it to be repeated here as we take privacy far more seriously than many influencers do themselves."
But threads often include details of an influencer's personal life outside of what they have shared on social media.
One post, which has been on the site for more than a year, reveals details of one influencer's time during and after school and gives unverified accounts of their personal life.
Some victims of trolling on the site felt too scared to use their real name as they feared even more abuse (Stock photo)
(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Comments include remarks such as "she’s quite shy irl [in real life] sober but always gets far too f*****" and "she’s got barely any friends and it’s pretty much always been that way since I’ve known her".
The intimate details of past relationships from an ex-partner also feature heavily in one thread, and are rewarded with several 'likes'.
Rules also include that no "unsavoury comments about children" are allowed.
"Their parents may broadcast their children's image to make money, but as they are too young to have consented in this unregulated industry we don't allow comments that may upset the children when older," the rules state.
However in one thread discussing an influencer's pregnancy, hate-filled comments included: "She's a d****** and her baby will be one too."
Another thread discussing a young child of an influencer dubbed them a "complete brat", referencing them by name.
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A pregnant woman also had her belly described as looking like "blubber", saying "there she blows".
Requests for content to be removed have to be made by email, with the site stating that removal or modification will be undertaken at their discretion.
To test whether or not any of Tattle's 'rules' are enforced by those who run the site, we posed as a user purely for the purposes of testing its moderation system.
After a number of days engaging with the site to appear as a genuine user, The Manchester Evening News collected a number of posts which are clear infringements of the site's stated rules.
As directed by the site's 'Takedown Request' section, reporters emailed across a series of posts, stating our reasons for why they should be taken down.
No response was given, and the posts remain active at the time of writing.
"Take Away Their Anonymity"
Lucy Howard works for the charity Bullies Out and specialises in cyberbullying and digital footprints.
She believes that petitions to remove sites like Tattle Life won't solve the current epidemic of online abuse, and that tighter controls are needed to verify users' accounts.
"The problem we have got with these platforms is the anonymity aspect of them," she said.
"If you look at Tattle, if you take that platform away they will just go elsewhere. The vitriol and viciousness that's there will stay because they are hidden by this cloak of anonymity.
"Tattle is ironic because users are hiding behind these profiles and actually what they are doing is selecting other people and digging into their personal life and discussing it.
"If we had more checks in place where you had to confirm who you were, then trolling would be a lot harder to do – the same way that catfishing would too."
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The anonymity aspect of forums like Tattle allows users to make derogatory and abusive remarks that they would never say to a person in real life, says Lucy.
To register for an account, all a person needs to do is provide a username, password, email and date of birth, before agreeing to the long list of terms and conditions.
Lucy says if Tattle were to be removed, the platform would likely just be replaced.
"I know that a lot of ex-Mumsnet users are on Tattle," she said.
"They will continue to find these platforms and the common denominator is they can hide behind these fake profiles and that's the issue we need to address.
"Five years down the line if they had to be held accountable for those comments when it came to applying for university or a job, would they still make those comments?
"The issue is the people, not the platform."
Lucy and other campaigners say there has been a sharp rise in online abuse during the coronavirus pandemic, as the toll of lockdown and spending more time online culminates.
"I think we've all had a tough year and people have been spending more time online and had a lot more time to think, worry, and feel anxious," she said.
"Unfortunately I think a lot of that venting has gone online and that's why we've seen a growth in sites like these.
"A lot of people – especially if they are bystanders – feel remote from it. People almost feel distanced but if you see something that doesn't affect you, you can still report it.
"It's a blurred world at the moment and I would hope in the future we see more stringent rules and regulations online."
"Make Online Abuse A Crime"
In 2019, a petition calling on the Government to make trolling illegal in the UK was rejected on the grounds that it did not specifically state what action was needed.
Currently, the act of trolling is not illegal, but prosecutions can be made under the Malicious Communications Act.
Offences under this act include where someone sends a form of communication that is deemed indecent or grossly offensive, threatening, or contains information which is false or believed to be false.
Campaigners say this piece of legislation doesn't go far to protect social media users, or hold online bullies to account.
Former glamour model Katie Price has taken on the issue after her disabled son Harvey, 18, became the victim of horrific online trolling.
Her Track A Troll campaign has already received over 100,000 signatures and is calling for a change in legislation that will require all social media platforms to ask users for ID.
The star says the law will mean users' accounts can be tracked through their IP address, allowing police to put a stop to online abuse.
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Katie's petition has been backed by several stars as well as MP and former businessman Andrew Griffith, and will now have to be debated in parliament due to the number of signatures.
For influencers like Rachel, the faceless nature of sites like Tattle Life, and the anonymity of those directing abuse towards her, has been one of the most damaging aspects.
Like Katie Price, she also believes the introduction of proof of identification when setting up online accounts could lead to a significant reduction in online abuse.
"You don't know who these people are and that's the worst thing," she said.
"If someone is saying these horrible things to your face you can defend yourself but on sites like Tattle you don't know who they are.
"For you to be able to set up an online account you should have to show photo ID otherwise these people are just going to go off and make new accounts so you can never find the culprit."
In 2020, Australia introduced the world's toughest trolling laws following a major campaign backed by journalist Erin Molan – who had received online abuse and death threats as part of her job.
Appearing on Good Morning Britain, the journalist said she was triggered to act after a Facebook user posted a comment saying they "hoped she'd have a stillborn baby and die" whilst she was pregnant.
Molan reported this to Facebook, but the social media giant allegedly did not deem the comment to be offensive.
Now, Australian internet service providers, social media companies and other platforms will risk a fine of $555,000 (£301,000) if they do not remove severely harmful, abusive, or bullying content within 24 hours.
Proposed legislation deems cyber-abuse aimed at adults as material an 'ordinary reasonable person would conclude' is 'menacing, harassing or offensive' and likely intended to harm an individual.
In the UK, similar laws could be introduced under the Online Harms White Paper – also known as the Online Safety Bill – which pledges to make online companies take responsibility for the safety of its users.
Addressing the House of Commons In December last year, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden promised the "toughest and most comprehensive online safety regime in the world."
If the bill is passed, it could give regulator Ofcom the power to fine tech giants who do not adhere to the legislation.
However the Online Harm Bill is currently only at White Paper stage and has not yet been debated in parliament, prompting questions about how long any sanctions would take to be implemented in this country.
Taking Back Control
The lack of power social media influencers feel they have over remarks that are made about them online has unsurprisingly led some to take matters into their own hands.
When Guardian beauty columnist Sali Hughes posted a video on Instagram talking about the effects of the trolling she has endured, she received a surprising apology from one user.
Speaking to the BBC, Hughes told how she was the victim of 'ceaseless trolling,' and had received abuse that threatened her livelihood, mental health and her loved ones.
A few months after posting the video, she was contacted by a woman named Becky, who admitted to posting abusive comments about Hughes online.
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In an email she acknowledged there was a "lot of projection going on," and when the two met, Becky spoke about issues in her own life which had fed into what she wrote.
"I think what you see of influencers, people on the internet, media personalities is potentially only 40 seconds of content a day. It's very easy to fill in with your own narrative," Becky said.
"For me specifically, I can say 100% what was going on in my own life is reflected in what I posted… it was nothing really to do with the content creator. It was what I filled in."
But for some influencers, attempts to take charge of the narrative have backfired.
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After receiving a tirade of abuse on Tattle Life, midwife and 'mumfluencer' Clemmie Hooper, created her own fake account to defend herself from trolls.
The mum claimed she joined Tattle Life in an attempt to 'change the conversation' after seeing her family targeted numerous times.
But after her actions were outed, Hooper has received a stream of hateful comments on the site for her posts.
She later explained: "When the users started to suspect it was me I made the mistake of commenting about others.
“I regret it all and am deeply sorry – I know this has caused a lot of pain."
One user called Hooper and her husband "t***s" and "sellers of daughters" — a reference to Hooper and her husband's Instagram handles ("Mother of Daughters" and "Father of Daughters").
On another thread, one member called the parents "a couple of not very bright arses" who have "zero likeability factor."
Hairdresser Rachel claims she's managed to put an end to most of the abuse she received on Tattle Life by obtaining users IP addresses, and threatening to 'out them.'
"I found a way to get IP addresses so my sister set up a fake account and posted 'if you want pictures of her follow this link'," she said.
"It took the Tattlers to give me their IP address and then I posted on my Instagram that I was going to out them.
"Since then I've barely been on the site. I think they panicked and were really worried and scared about what I was going to do."
By obtaining the IP addresses, Rachel claims she was able to identify one of the women who had been trolling her.
"I found out that she lives around the corner from my salon so I got her number and phoned her," she said.
"I asked her if she knew the hurt she had caused me. She followed it up with abuse saying that I was harassing her and that she was going to phone the police."
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Rachel says if she didn't have her son and a strong support network around her, the abuse she suffered at the hands of Tattle users could have driven her to feel suicidal.
"It was horrific. I was scared to go to my mum's classes in case someone went back and reported it on me," she said.
"I didn't even speak to any of my friends because I was terrified thinking what if it's one of them that's doing this to me.
"It isolated me so much."
Tattle Life did not respond to the Manchester Evening News' attempts to contact the site.
The Mirror has contacted Tattle Life for comment.