Internet/Facebook Trolls

In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion

An Internet “troll” is a person who delights in sowing discord on the Internet. He (and it is usually he) tries to start arguments and upset people. Anyone can be a troll, and can take all manner of Identities all of which are faked. From impersonating real people or made up fantasy names. The trolls main targets are groups/pages or forums which are dedications or have emotional content ; such as memorial pages or those that contain anti-child abuse awareness. Trolls can be of any age/race or gender.

Opponents of trolls might characterise it as the internet equivalent of road rage, vandalising a grave, or kicking a man when he’s down.

Trolling is a phenomenon that has swept across websites in recent years. Online forums, Facebook pages and newspaper comment forms are bombarded with insults, provocations or threats. Supporters argue it’s about humour, mischief and freedom of speech. But for many the ferocity and personal nature of the abuse verges on hate speech.

Trolls see Internet communications services as convenient venues for their bizarre game. For some reason, they don’t “get” that they are hurting real people. To them, other Internet users are not quite human but are a kind of digital abstraction. As a result, they feel no sorrow whatsoever for the pain they inflict. Indeed, the greater the suffering they cause, the greater their ‘achievement’ (as they see it). At the moment, the relative anonymity of the net allows trolls to flourish.

Trolls are utterly impervious to criticism (constructive or otherwise). You cannot negotiate with them; you cannot cause them to feel shame or compassion; you cannot reason with them. They cannot be made to feel remorse. For some reason, trolls do not feel they are bound by the rules of courtesy or social responsibility.

Posted on a memorial site to a man who died

When trolls are ignored they step up their attacks, desperately seeking the attention they crave. Their messages become more and more foul, and they post ever more of them. Alternatively, they may protest that their right to free speech is being curtailed. A troll’s goal is to make users angry, emotional  and by responding to their posts, you are “feeding the troll”. Almost all trolls will hide behind a fake profile or persona. Their identity is hidden therefore allowing complete anonymity.

Trolling is a game about identity deception, albeit one that is played without the consent of most of the players. The troll attempts to pass as a legitimate participant, sharing the group’s common interests and concerns; the newsgroups members, if they are cognizant of trolls and other identity deceptions, attempt to both distinguish real from trolling postings, and upon judging a poster a troll, make the offending poster leave the group.

Posted on a memorial site to a teenage girl who died

Their success at the former depends on how well they – and the troll – understand identity cues; their success at the latter depends on whether the troll’s enjoyment is sufficiently diminished or outweighed by the costs imposed by the group. Trolls can be costly in several ways. A troll can disrupt the discussion on a newsgroup, disseminate bad advice, and damage the feeling of trust in the newsgroup community.

Furthermore, in a group that has become sensitized to trolling – where the rate of deception is high – many honestly naïve questions may be quickly rejected as trollings. This can be quite off-putting to the new user who upon venturing a first posting is immediately bombarded with angry accusations. Even if the accusation is unfounded

I believe that most trolls are sad people, living their lonely lives vicariously through those they see as strong and successful.

Disrupting a stable group/page or forum gives the illusion of power, just as for a few, stalking a strong person allows them to think they are strong, too.

For trolls, any response is ‘recognition’; they are unable to distinguish between irritation and admiration; their ego grows directly in proportion to the response, regardless of the form or content of that response.

Trolls, rather surprisingly, dispute this, claiming that it’s a game or joke; this merely confirms the diagnosis; how sad do you have to be to find such mind-numbingly trivial timewasting to be funny?

Remember that trolls are cowards; they’ll usually post just enough to get an argument going, then sit back and count the responses

The admins of groups/pages or forums may not be able to delete a troll’s messages right away, but their job is made much harder if they also have to read numerous replies to trolls. They are also forced to decide whether or not to delete posts from well-meaning folks which have the unintended effect of encouraging the troll.

Some admins of groups/pages or forums have to endure conscientious users telling them that they are “acting like dictators” and should never delete a single message. These people may be misinformed: they may have arrived at their opinion about a troll based on the messages they see, never realizing that the webmaster has already deleted his most horrific material.

An example of a troll who was jailed in September 2011

An internet ‘troll’ who posted vile abuse on Facebook memorial sites dedicated to dead children was jailed.

Sean Duffy caused ‘untold distress’ by mocking a 15-year-old schoolgirl who committed suicide,  leaving obscene messages and videos on a condolence page set up by her family.

The 25-year-old – the son of a BBC comedy writer who worked with Terry Wogan – also hijacked tribute websites of three other children he had never met. In one of the first cases of its kind, the autistic loner was sentenced to 18 weeks behind bars and banned from using social networking sites for five years.

October 2010 - Jade Goody website ‘troll’ from Manchester jailed

An “internet troll” who posted obscene messages on Facebook sites set up in memory of dead people has been jailed.

Colm Coss, of Ardwick, Manchester, posted on a memorial page for Big Brother star Jade Goody and a tribute site to John Paul Massey, a Liverpool boy mauled to death by a dog. The 36-year-old “preyed on bereaved families” for his “own pleasure”, Manchester Magistrates Court heard.

He was jailed for 18 weeks for sending “malicious communications”. The posts included comments claiming he had sex with the victims’ dead bodies

Click for more onTrolls target cancer victim on Facebook 

and Woman launches legal action to identify Facebook trolls

or The self-confessed troll @ Daily mail

How can troll posts be recognised?

  • No Imagination - Most are frighteningly obvious; sexist comments on nurses’ groups, blasphemy on religious groups .. I kid you not.

  • Pedantic in the Extreme - Many trolls’ preparation is so thorough, that while they waste time, they appear so ludicrous from the start that they elicit sympathetic mail – the danger is that once the group takes sides, the damage is done.

  • False Identity - Because they are cowards, trolls virtually never write over their own name, and often reveal their trolliness (and lack of imagination) in the chosen ID. As so many people these days use false ID, this is not a strong indicator on its own!

  • Crossposting - Any post that is crossposted to several groups should be viewed as suspicious, particularly if unrelated or of opposing perspective. Why would someone do that?

  • Off-topic posting - Often genuine errors, but, if from an ‘outsider’ they deserve matter-of-fact response; if genuine, a brief apposite response is simply netiquette; if it’s a troll post, you have denied it its reward.

  • Repetition of a question or statement is either a troll – or a pedant; either way, treatment as a troll is effective.

  • Missing The Point - Trolls rarely answer a direct question – they cannot, if asked to justify their twaddle – so they develop a fine line in missing the point.

  • Thick or Sad - Trolls are usually sad, lonely people, with few social skills; they rarely make what most people would consider intelligent conversation. However, they frequently have an obsession with their IQ and feel the need to tell everyone. This is so frequent, that it is diagnostic! Somewhere on the web there must be an Intelligence Test for Trolls - rigged to always say “above 150″

Other examples

  • Using Fake looking IDs and suspicious IP addresses.

  • Repetitive comments on same blogs/ posts mainly to seek attention.

  • Their comments are abusive, gross, rude and often off-topic.

  • They don’t use one ID for a longer time as they are banned or deleted frequently for posting derogatory remarks.

  • IDs can be faked but writing style can’t be.

  • They have the strategy of Divide and Win

  • They mostly use several identities to support their own comments.

  • They may attack below the belt to get desired response .

  • They leave the message board flooded with irrelevant messages and replies.

  • They are the one who often cries foul plays and that moderators are snatching their right of expression (speech).

  • They hardly follow site’s rules or social responsibility.

Their preys are mostly celebrities, un-moderated sites or regular users of site to catch attention of more people.

Troll sites

While many webmasters and forum administrators consider trolls a scourge on their sites, some websites welcome them. For example, a New York Times article discussed troll activity at 4chan and at Encyclopedia Dramatica, which it described as “an online compendium of troll humor and troll lore”. This site and others are often used as a base to troll against sites that their members can not normally post on. These trolls feed off the reactions of their victims because “their agenda is to take delight in causing trouble”

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, contributions made to the Internet are covered by the Communications Act 2003. Sending messages which are “grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” is an offense whether they are received by the intended recipient or not . As of September 2011, two persons have been imprisoned in the UK for trolling. Several high profile cases of trolling have been reported in the United Kingdom, with there being wide disparity between the action taken against assailants. In the case of teenager, Natasha MacBryde, who died a tragic death, the troll of her testimonial page, Sean Duffy, was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison and banned from using social networking sites for five years. This compared with Jamie Counsel being sentenced to four years for trying to incite riots  and those who trolled the testimonial page of Georgia Varley facing no prosecution due to misunderstandings of the legal system in the wake of the term trolling being popularized