SCOTLAND and the rest of the world has been trolled by Roosh V - the controversial 'neo-masculinist' accused of being 'pro-rape' - according to a leading expert on online behaviour.

Last night there were supposed to be meetings in 163 different cities across the world, including Glasgow and Edinburgh, for men who subscribed to the anti-feminist beliefs of Roosh V, real name Daryush Valizadeh, and his Return of Kings website.

The meetings never happened. After a week of frenzied press reports, petitions and politicians speaking out, Valizadeh said he had no choice but to cancel every single one. He insisted the gatherings were not a “promo stunt”.

Group meet-ups planned for Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, Cardiff, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds and Shrewsbury sparked widespread protests, and planned demonstrations. Valizadeh called off the events, posting on his website that he can "no longer guarantee the safety or privacy" of attendees.

Valizadeh became infamous for writing a widely criticised article last year calling for the legalisation of rape on private property as a way to "defeat rape culture".

Dr Whitney Phillips, an expert on gender and technology at Mercer University in Georgia, and the author of “This is Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship Between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture”, told the Sunday Herald that the world’s press had “taken the bait” being offered by Valizadeh.

“By reporting on the story, [the media] helped amplify Roosh V's message, resulting in infinitely more attention than he would have received otherwise. I don't know the man, have never interacted with him, and have no desire to do either, but I can almost guarantee that he was betting that media outlets would take the bait, and am sure he's just tickled by all the free publicity.”

Valizadeh has published a number of books, including some on making money online and one titled: “Trolling for a Living.” Over the last week he has gone from relative obscurity to the front pages of national newspapers.

Dr Phillips is not a fan of the term troll. It’s way of making the violent misogyny of Roosh V and others like him seem more playful, less harmful, she says.

The problem with groups like Roosh V's followers on Return of Kings, she says, is that they contain "an ambivalence" that lies somewhere between those who believe what they’re saying and those who are just playing.

But even if every single person involved with the meet-ups was in on the joke and just trying to wind people up, the academic says, it doesn’t matter.

“Not everyone will react to it in the same way, but for some people who have had embodied experiences of sexualised violence, the mere suggestion of legalising rape could re-traumatise. Even if everybody’s kidding and they know better and would never engage in sexualised violence, I don’t care, I’m not interested in that, what I’m interested in is the impact that these behaviours have.”

How the media reports on these dark corners of the internet, says the academic, is one of the ethical conundrums of our age. By not talking about it we could be covering it up. If we want to do the right thing by calling out people who are doing wrong, then we have to appreciate that there may be repercussions that we can’t even anticipate.

It’s a question Sandy Brindley from Rape Crisis Scotland has faced in the past, but for her, this time, there was never any question of not speaking out.

“I think in this situation it was right for people to get involved in commenting and protesting, because his views were so extreme and offensive but also harmful," she says.

In fact, Brindley says, it was imperative to speak out about Valizadeh. “If somebody’s talking about rape in a way that condones or promotes it and the response of our culture and our society is silence the message that gives is that we don’t care about you.”

Last night’s meet-ups were cancelled because Valizadeh claimed he couldn’t guarantee the safety or the privacy of the men attending. There was some irony here because Valizadeh isn't your average men's right activist. Last year in article on his own website he argued that rape should be made legal on private property. Any women consenting to go into a man’s house, was, effectively consenting to sex.

He later claimed this was “satire”, but there are plenty of other examples of his writing to suggest he has a loose relationship with consent. He also told his followers to film any women trying to protest the meet-ups, the videos would be put online and they would face "retribution".

By the end of the week Valizadeh may have been overexposed but he was also fairly well and truly humiliated.

In Parliament, MPs stood up and made jokes about the size of his penis, and thousands gathered in cities all over the world to stand up for equality and protest against misogyny.

Perhaps most damningly for the men who follow and believe in the pick-up and seductions teachings of Roosh V, a tabloid tracked him down and discovered that the 36 year old lives in his mum’s basement.