How to tackle internet trolls

In fairy tales, the best way of getting rid of a troll is getting yourself a really big goat to head-butt him off a bridge. In the real world, where internet trolls thrive on spreading hate and destroying reputations, the cover of anonymity prevents such simple solutions.

An internet troll is someone who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.

Trolls try to start fights between friends or strangers; they torment those struggling with illnesses or with the loss of a loved one, people unsure of their identity or their looks, or any other weakness a troll can find. They disrupt forums with off-topic comments, brag nonstop about themselves, ridicule the thoughts of others or insert controversial comments to disrupt conversations.

At YourLifeChoices, we like to think we run a robust debate in our comments section, but we do our best to remove comments that cross the line into abuse of fellow members and you are easily able to report a comment that you think has gone too far, particularly with regard to personal abuse.

If you are elsewhere on the internet, what do you do if you find you are constantly harassed online? Here are a few things to try to solve the problem.

Make sure the user is actually a troll
It may seem like someone is being deliberately provocative, but there is always a chance that someone is just having a bad day and is taking it out on the internet. Avoid getting heated and ask friendly questions and polite requests to keep it nice. Some people just lack a little online etiquette and need to learn the rules. If your requests to play nice are ignored or attacked, chances are you are dealing with a troll.

Avoidance is the best policy
A troll’s goal is to make users angry and responding to these posts is commonly referred to as ‘feeding the trolls’. The best way to frustrate a troll is by not buying into their game. Do not respond in a manner that stoops to the troll’s level, as you will only escalate the situation. Remember Murphy’s Law in this situation: ‘never argue with an idiot, people may not be able to tell the difference’. It might not be easy to deal with some of the vicious comments, but any argument only presents further opportunities for the troll to spray more vitriol.

Alert the moderator
As mentioned above, YourLifeChoices allows you to report any suspect comments that cross the boundaries of good taste or personal abuse. Most web sites with comments sections offer a similar service and the moderator will then decide whether to delete the comment or block the user and most importantly the user’s IP address. On most sites the ‘report abuse’ feature is on the same page but the big social media sites, usually require you to go to the help centre to report abuse and file a bullying report.

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Written by Ben

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