The definition of online trolling has been evasive since it was identified in 2002 as a form of online abuse. This abuse includes a range of behaviours that are used by people to control, bully or frighten another person using social media, games or other forums. Over time the label was used to identify antisocial online behaviours, generally.
Unlike the mythological version of a troll who, according to Scandinavian folklore was an ugly and angry creature living under bridges waiting to pounce on unsuspecting creatures, the modern-day version hides behind screens & online identities, is angry and disruptive and whose only goal is to create mayhem on the Internet. Anonymity empowers the trolls who are safely isolated from consequences and makes the coward feel strong.
In a recently published article, ‘Online trolling used to be funny, but now the term refers to something far more sinister’ the author Evita March refers to a study which surveyed 379 participants about what they considered internet trolling? How do trolls “behave”? and Do they intend to harm, or amuse?
‘People saying intentionally provocative things on social media with the intent of attacking/causing discomfort or offence ‘ and ‘Teasing, bullying, joking or making fun of something, someone or a group.’
Based on these and other responses the researchers concluded that internet trolling is an ‘intentional, malicious online behaviour, rather than a harmless activity of mutual enjoyment.’
Because of the discrepancies in internet trolling definitions over time and across researchers and the public, the study concluded that the term should be replaced with ‘cyberabuse.’
To find out more about Why People Troll read this article published by Psychology Today. ‘Why the online trolls, troll.’
So where do these trolls lurk?
The most likely places are YouTube video comments, forums, email, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, blog comments and anonymous social networks.
If trolls deliberately post comments for ‘fun’ to upset others or get a reaction the most effective responses are to remove their audience and power and limit their attention-seeking reach.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner offers the following advice:
- Report the troll or hater to website administrators and if they appear again under a different name, report them again.
- Ignore comments. Remember: do not respond to nasty, immature or offensive comments.
- Block the troll. Take away their power by blocking them. If they appear under a different name, block them again.
- Back other users up online. Support those who are the target of trolls and haters, without allowing the troll or hater to re-engage.
If trolling or hate is persistent and/or particularly nasty, then it might be considered cyberbullying. Keep evidence of the material.
Contact the social media site or platform where the trolling is happening to report it. Social media services are required to take down material believed to be cyberbullying [trolling] in nature. Most social media services will have a Help or Report section on their site. A list of how to contact these services can be found here.
If the target is under 18, and the reported harmful content has not been taken down within 48 hours, it can be reported to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner.
The hate-inspired trolls can cause harm and distress to their targets. Encourage open conversations in your family about these types of online abuse and consider how they can be managed should they impact on your child or other family members. The most important thing to remember is, it’s not you, it’s them.