How to Deal with Trolling on Online Forums
A girl geek’s guide to Internet trolling on forums. What is a troll? Here’s how not to be one, and what to do if you find trolls under the bridge in your forum. Don’t feed the trolls!
What is Trolling?
Trolling is a form of online abuse which takes place on internet forums. The purpose for the troll is to provoke reaction from other users to the point of causing disruption. There are many ways a troll will do this.
· Posting inflammatory comments (called “Flaming”)
· Pretending to be multiple users or “Sock puppets”. For example, “Concern Trolling” is where the sock puppets have opposing opinions appearing to be different in order to set other users off against each other and create paranoia.
· Pretending to be extremely naive/stupid/ignorant for the purpose of winding people up.
· Pretending to be existing users.
· Contacting users via Private Message to abuse them.
· Making (mainly female) users uncomfortable with suggestive comments.
· Spamming the site with links to another site in order to cause friction.
Is this is serious problem?
It can be. For some sites and users, a troll is nothing more than a bully but for others, it can be very serious, especially if the site being trolled is yours. Not only can a troll cause tension on a forum, it can also lead to other serious problems such as a drop in users, bullying, old users accusing innocent new users of being trolls, and moderation issues. Also if an individual is being trolled, it can cause great distress to that person.
It’s a common perception for people to believe that trolls are aggressive people in real life, probably teenage boys with nothing better to do, but a troll is more likely to be a passive-aggressive individual, unlikely to be able to lash out in real life to those who cause their frustrations. They also crave attention. The age range also shoots up to between 35- 45 with trolls coming in all gender flavours – it’s not just teenage boys! There are just some not very nice people in the world and the appeal of being a faceless bully is strong.
I think there is some trolling going on at a site I use. What should I do?
There is only ever one way to defeat a troll…
The main purpose behind trolling is to get a reaction, good or bad. Trolls don’t care what you say about them as long as you are saying it! What really upsets them more than calling them names is not calling them names. Replying will fuel the fire and get you banned yourself. There is a very good reason why forums have notices saying “Don’t feed the trolls”. It’s because it actually works. If you feel more action is needed, here are some things that can help.
· Report your concerns to the moderators. Trolls hate moderators because they have the power to remove those precious posts! The moderators may not be able to do something straight away because of site rules but it means they have evidence long term.
· Some forums have a block or ignore facility. If you don’t see a post, you won’t want to reply.
· Forward all Private Messages to the moderators. Never reply but keep copies for yourself.
· If someone is pretending to be you, report it straight away and only reply to posts with “This is not me” if you HAVE to. Ask the moderators to do a post informing people to ignore those messages instead.
Help! I’m new on a site and I have been accused of being a troll!
This mistake can sadly happen, especially where multiple accounts occur. It’s not very nice when people suspect you of something like trolling but there is a way to help yourself. First try to recognise where the impression may have been made. Common mistakes are…
· A remark you made and just didn’t think about. Apologise in a post.
· Something you have in common with another user or a real troll. It’s a small world!
· Using two accounts because you thought pretending to be a friend would make you look popular (This is not at all clever by the way and causes more harm than good).
· Using a “photo” in an avatar. Stick to fun images to be safe.
By correcting the problem, you show you just made a mistake. But if you feel you are being victimised do the following.
· Talk to the moderators. They are the ones who can straighten the mess out and would be more able to put minds at rest.
· Stay calm no matter what is said and if it continues, walk away from the site but don’t announce it. There is no need to give anyone the satisfaction. Besides, do you really want to talk to people who insist on being nasty to you?
I think the moderators themselves are actually causing some of the trolling!
Believe it or not, this isn’t an uncommon complaint! Moderators (and sometimes even admin) normally start off as users themselves before either offering their services or being offered the position. Sadly for a small few, the little bit of power goes to their heads and it means for those who don’t fit in, they will get abused or frozen out. There are only two things you can do if this happens.
· The first thing is the go over their heads to whoever is in charge and calmly explain that the behaviour is unacceptable. Bad moderators can kill a site and most admin will act upon a complaint against a moderator.
· If the admin is also the problem there is only one thing you can do…leave!
It’s not the end of the world to stop visiting an internet forum. Any friends you made can still contact you offsite through Facebook and email and there are millions of much nicer sites out there where you will be treated better. Sites with bad moderator issues are not a good place to hang out and they quickly earn a very bad reputation so all you are doing is just getting out before it gets worse.
And finally remember, it’s easier to upset someone when you don’t have to be in a room with them….trolls are cowards and lost souls, nothing more. Sometimes you can help them integrate. Usually it’s better for the forum community to let them be.