Note: This was originally published on my blog on 31 August 2012
There’s regular talk of late about the ills of the dreaded trolls. It foments notions and apparently legitimate discussion about forcibly removing the cloak of anonymity. There’s the usual laments about the quality of debate and the taking over by the trolls.
Sadly the recurring ‘troll’ debate could be trolling itself.
Sadder still is the ludicrous notion that the so-called rise of the trolls (like some sort of zombie plague) is new.
The current debate and how repetitive it has become as different social and political commentators try to come up with new ways of legitimising online censorship and forced disclosure to justify mowing down the troll plague.
I’m a little sick of it to be honest. So I decided to add my two cents worth on the troll plague.
Here’s some truths about trolls from someone who has been online for 20 years. And that’s not even a dinosaur’s time online.
Truth One: Trolls have always existed
The truth is trolls have always existed.
Many, many years when I joined my first discussion board and began really participating in different threads, I was harassed for being a n00b and that I had a small d!ck or was fat or that my mum was a street walker etc. At first I took it to heart and furiously bashed away at the keyboard but then one day I realised another thread. The thread was about what to do with the trolls. It was quite a long thread with a lot of commentary about the evils of trolls and how much worse they had become.
This obsession about the trolls seems to come up from time to time; particularly as changes to technologies and new online applications allow easier access to mass broadcast platforms eg Twitter and Facebook.
The bottom line is there’s nothing new about trolls. Get over it.
Truth Two: Don’t feed the trolls
Seriously don’t feed the trolls. This is a fundamental truth for dealing with trolls.
If the trolling isn’t from a drone account, then all you are doing is validating the trolls comments, statements, attacks, slurs, abuse and harassment. If you ignore them they very quickly give up.
There’s nothing worse for a troll than to be ignored. They may carry on for a little while but they do give up.
You’ll have to exercise some discipline with this truth. It means you don’t retweet or repost what trolls say. It means not making snide remarks about your trolls. It means carrying on as if they don’t exist.
Online it is much easier to live by the well worn mantra told to kids being called names – sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.
Truth Three: See Truth Two
By this stage you might think there’s a new thing called trolls rising like zombie hordes. So remember to see Truth One.
Truth Four: Block and Report
There are reasons that every reputable social network, discussion board, online forum, blogs etc have flag, report and block options for users being harassed. These aren’t new options either.
If you don’t like what the trolls are saying to you then block them and report them.
Truth Five: Trolls = Trolls
Trolls are trolls. They are not interested in a meaningful debate and an exchange of ideas. They are not interested in understanding your point of view or the reasons why you hold a particular point of view or opinion.
They are only interested in one thing; saying and behaving in ways that maliciously distract, disrupt and distort.
It would be great if commentators gained a bit of perspective about trolls instead of mindlessly declaring that anonymity on the Internet is evil. It’s time to mount the mantra – Don’t Feed The Trolls.