Emily Moore: First victim of cyber bullies opens up on risks kids face online

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Emily MooreEmily became the first official victim of cyber bullying (Image: Adam Gasson / SWNS.COM)

It is only when the red blotches appear on her pale skin that you get a sense of the terrible trauma she went through as a teenager. Ten years ago, Emily became the first official victim of cyber bullying when her tormentor Keeley Houghton was convicted of making death threats against her on Facebook. Today, Emily, 28, tells for the first time how she overcame the ordeal and went on to marry her childhood sweetheart, travel the world and become a creative producer at a leading company.

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But she is also speaking out to warn that, a decade on, few lessons have been learnt, teenagers continue to be harassed relentlessly on the internet and how "Trolling is worse than it has ever been."

Emily, from Malvern, Worcestershire, adds: "Facebook was arrogant back then and it seems to be even more arrogant now.

"I hope to have children one day and, when I do, I am going to be scared to let them on social media as there isn't enough being done to protect them.

"Teenagers are being bullied, harassed and tormented all the time and little is being done to keep them safe. It is a million times worse than it was back then, yet companies like Facebook seem unable - or are unwilling - to put a stop to it.

"I know it will cost money to clean up the internet but it is so important we keep young people safe. After all, what price can you put on a child's life?" In August 2009, Houghton, then 18, was front page news after becoming the first person to be locked up for carrying out a campaign of hate on the internet.

She had pleaded guilty to harassment and was handed a three-month sentence at a young offenders' institution and banned from contacting her victim for five years.

The case brought trolling into the public eye before the word became synonymous with online abuse. It was partly due to Emily that Facebook introduced its report button, which now has 2.3 billion active monthly users, to allow people to flag up inappropriate posts and pictures.

The vicious Facebook campaign against EmilyThe vicious Facebook campaign against Emily (Image: Adam Gasson / SWNS.COM)

Her ordeal was cited in the digital section of the 2013 Defamation Act and teachers still talk about what she went through when they educate pupils about bullying on the net.

But Emily still worries about what teenagers are going through today. "There are still so many bullies and out there and social media is so popular," she says.

"Back then you had to go home and log on to your PC to get on to Facebook.

"Now most children have smartphones and they are swapping pictures and sending each other messages on sites such as Instagram and all the time.

"There must be so much cruelty and abuse that goes unreported, it is terrifying. I'd hate to be a 14-year-old right now."

Emily's descent into digital hell started when she was in her second year of secondary school when classmate Houghton developed an intense hatred of her.

"It started with name-calling and then she began spitting at me, pulling my hair or following me and treading on the back of my heels as I walked home," says Emily.

"Some days there would be a pack of 10 or 15 them - Keeley and her friends - waiting for me at the top of my road. It got to the point that my friends didn't want to walk next to me because they were worried about getting picked on.

"The school didn't know how to deal with the bullying at first. I remember walking home one day and Keeley following behind shouting 'Emily is a sl*g.' I think it was because I was wearing eyeliner.

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"I kept reporting them and they kept getting into trouble but it only seemed to wind them up. I was an extrovert and I wanted to show that I would not be cowed.

"I eventually managed to get four of them expelled and I was so scared to go to school after that. On the first day back in Year 10, when I was 14, I walked out of school and there were about 40 people waiting for me. They were Keeley's friends - cousins, boyfriends,

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