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Editorial The Power of Internet Trolls
Some of these "nice" people however become almost schizophrenic when participating in an internet forum such as this one or the many others out there and turn into trolls. The type of troll can range from the more or less benign "humour" trolls that like to say something just that little bit leftfield in order to try and get an indignant rise out of people, to the highly malicious. For example, a humour troll could very obviously come down on the side of some new unpopular, controversial law enforcement action that might be in the news, such as an increase in powers to give out parking tickets by councils - just the sort of petty little Hitler tactic used by councils that annoys the hell out any normal person.
At every turn, the troll will defend these unpopular actions by the councils, perhaps by using infuriatingly calm, polite and reasonable-sounding language to say something very unreasonable. They will defend the councils to the hilt even though it's patently obvious to anyone with half a brain that the councils are doing this just to scam the hapless motorist out of even more money and these petty actions have nothing to do with the purported reasons of "keeping traffic flowing" or that old stalwart, "safety" etc etc. As the troll carries on posting, other members get more and more wound up and indignant, which will amuse the troll to no end. I have to confess that I have found such trolling amusing too at times - if you get the joke.
Then you have the malicious trolls, the scourge of the internet and the ones that everyone truly despises and should basically be shot at dawn. These people want to hurt others as much as possible, plain and simple. They may want to bring down a forum, turning it into a wasteland, or having it shut down altogether by crapping most threads on there and feel as if they've "achieved" something in their sad lives. Then, you get the really horrible ones that go trolling pages put up on Facebook honouring the dead, such as a small child that died of cancer or servicemen who died in battle for their country. These trolls have been so spiteful and hurtful that in some cases they've been caught and ended up with criminal records. In the most extreme cases, the vulnerable individuals that they're targeted have actually committed suicide. These nasty incidents are recent too, occurring within the last three years or so.
So, why do they do it? Trolling is really just the internet or cyber version of bullying that has gone on for millennia and is done because it gives them some twisted sense of satisfaction. Why do they enjoy doing this? I don't know, ask them, but having psychopathic tendencies is a large part of it. What gives them their power of course, is successfully fooling others on the forum as to their true intentions, greatly helped by the anonymity that the internet gives them. Or so they think. On the internet one is only ever semi anonymous, or "psuedononymous" (I think I've spelled that right, lol). What with IP addresses, usernames and profiling, people can usually be identified eventually by law enforcement if need be and perhaps by other ordinary individuals, unless they are very good at covering their tracks and that might not be forever, especially if they keep on doing it.
So, how does a victim stop a troll? There's no definitive answer, or silver bullet and every situation is a little different, but the overall aim is take the satisfaction out of it for the troll. Here are the main ways this can be achieved:
- Don't feed the trolls! How many times have you heard that? Just ignoring them may make them go away, but you may want to get even with them too, hence...
- Call them out on their trolling, make them feel small and pathetic. They'll soon stop, but be careful not to fall afoul of the forum rules and moderators yourself for derailing a thread. Also...
- Try to get that troll banned by reporting every single time they troll, regardless of who the victim is. May well take more time and energy than it's worth, though. The forum staff should be sharp enough to ban the troll in time anyway, but sometimes they need a little convincing
- Learn to recognize trolling when you see it and don't react in any way that could give that troll satisfaction, which is what they crave
- If the forum is moderated, report them and keep right on doing it for every post they troll. If the forum staff are halfway decent, they'll be interested in stopping the torment and putting these clowns out of action (and get sick of the constant reports). If not, then that forum isn't worth patronizing. It's important to try and keep within the forum rules, or the victim could end up getting nailed by a moderator, too
So, keeping the trolls and spammers out is why we have moderators here to watch over our beloved forum and keep it free of such nasty people! I'm glad to say that in all my time here so far I've never had to moderate anyone. With admin powers I can really go nuclear on a member, not only by banning them, but also by deleting every last vestige of their presence if I have to and I'm glad to say that so far, this has only applied to spammers peddling the usual kind of junk you see in spam emails.
So, what got me started on this post tonight instead of putting my feet up and relaxing in front of the TV? It was an interesting infographic written about by Mashable, which I've reproduced below. The infographic is by an outfit called Best Online Psychology Schools and in it, they explain some of the reasons why these people do this and in typical psychoanalytical fashion that might make some people reading it uncomfortable as they recognize some of those traits in themselves. At the end, they give a few tips on frustrating and thwarting trolls, courtesy of University of Central Lancashire lecturer, Claire Hardaker. She studied a full nine years worth of unmoderated comments to come to her conclusions!