British comedian Dom Joly has contacted the police, after an internet troll made abusive comments about his children via Twitter.
The star of “Trigger Happy TV” was upset that a Twitter user called @deathtojolykids sent a string of offensive messages, including ones hoping that the comic’s children got cancer.
Joly managed to get the Twitter account suspended, and filed a complaint with his local police force asking them to investigate.
Earlier this week, in a separate incident, a man was jailed by a British court for 18 weeks for leaving hurtful messages on Facebook and YouTube memorial sites.
25-year-old Sean Duffy, was imprisoned after pleading guilty to two counts of “sending a communication of an indecent or offensive nature.” His victims had included the family and friends of teenager Natasha MacBryde who had killed herself after being bullied.
Duffy had posted the upsetting comments, despite never even having met Miss MacBryde.
The internet is full of trolls
The internet can turn people who might appear perfectly pleasant if you met them face-to-face into ugly trolls online.
The fact is that it’s a lot easier to be downright rude and offensive via a computer than if you’re standing opposite someone. Sitting in front of a keyboard and monitor can make us forget that there’s a real human being with feelings, reading the message at the other end.
Trolls take this to an extreme, revelling in the chaos they can stir up on an internet message board – the more people they offend, the better in their book as they purposely cause trouble.
Don’t feed the trolls
The first piece of advice is one that should be familiar to us from fairy stories: “DON’T FEED THE TROLL”.
If an internet troll is demanding attention, don’t give them any.
Responding to them can just feed the flames, and encourage them to post more offensive remarks. Eventually they should grow bored and disappear.
As tempting as it is to fight fire with fire, you’ll only be pouring fuel on the flames if you respond in kind.
Blocking and reporting trolls
When a troll stops being merely annoying, and is plainly harassing you then things get more serious. You should report the behaviour to the internet site you’re using (such as Facebook), and block them – if possible – from contacting you again.
If you feel that the social network isn’t being responsive, maybe you can get the media to apply some pressure?
You may have to be inventive to get the problem sorted. In my own experience, when my family was threatened by Facebook users, I found Facebook unresponsive and unwilling to remove highly offensive Photoshopped images until I complained that they might be a breach of copyright!
Physical threats against you and your family should be reported to the police, who should take a threat delivered via the net as seriously as one sent via the post or delivered via telephone.
If you’re setting up an online tribute site, it can make sense to not make it open to the general public but request that people ask permission to join it. That way, you can delete any upsetting messages and banish any trolls who are merely there to cause offence.
No magic wand
It’s a sad reality that trolls will always exist – we can’t wave a wand and make them disappear entirely from the internet. But we can reduce the opportunities for them to cause trouble, and we can perhaps make them realise that what they’re doing is destructive.
How trolls could make the internet a less safe place
What trolls might do well to realise is this – their antisocial activities, normally hidden behind a cloak of fake names and pseudonyms, plays into the hands of those who would like to do away with anonymity on the internet.
Do you really want to live in an internet world where anonymity has been banned, preventing freedom of speech and stomping on those who have a genuine need to keep their identity secret?
Don’t feed the trolls, but most importantly – don’t be a troll. You could make life worse for everyone.
38 comments on “How to deal with an internet troll”
Dom often engages with trolls, so whilst these idiots are, well… idiots… he does bring it on himself.
I don't condone what they do though. Not one bit.
You will find no shortage of idiots on the internet. The bottom line is that most of these 'trolls' are just angsty teenagers with nothing better to do. In a sense, "trolling" is in fact another sense of bullying, and you get what comes to you. It's funny because if you asked most of these trolls if they support bullying, they'd say no. But there comes a time in every child's life where they grow up. This is yet another reason why these children need more internet moderation and restrictions.
@ Patrick, no they aren't just angry teenagers. I know from first hand experience that the trolls who harassed and stalked my disabled child and myself are 30-40 year old men. One of them was arrested and cautioned as he stole my disabled child's pics and photos-hopped them with porn and then placed the shopped pics on several sex sites with sick sexual comments. The pics of my daughter were age 7. The same malevolent trolls have posted pics of me all of the web with sickening libelous abuse. I had the police involved as Facebook did absolutely nothing to remove the pornographic shopped pics of my little girl.
I'm sorry, but re rb73 comment above; whether he engages with trolls or not, nobody should have to read comments expressing a wish that the recipients children die of cancer as Joly apparently has. Idiots hardly cuts it. Malicious scum would be closer to the mark.
As a teacher, I have to politely disagree with the above statement that trolls are necessary to keep order in the class/internet/world. Trolls and class clowns disrupt normal flow of conversations and ideas just for their own amusement. This creates an imbalance in the "society" and is distracting, rude and self serving. It is a blatant disregard for others when you say things just to rile them up. It shows a lack of self confidence and insecurity to tease people into becoming upset. Maybe instead of the term "troll" we should refer to them as "bullies" because isn't the outcome the same? Trolls/bullies make people feel bad for their own amusement. Sad and stupid.
Thank you. Very well worded. This is a very fine, nearly indiscernible line between teasing and bullying.
Trolls think they're the funniest people they know.
Ooops…. I was fixing to put some food out for a troll and remembered your advice! Thanks Sophos LOL
Far from being a "hilarious happenstance," trolling is a deliberate attempt to make another human being unhappy – whether by causing them to appear foolish and stupid, or causing emotional damage.
Trolls troll because it makes them feel powerful, and generally do so because they have absolutely no power in their personal lives. Generally, I find that such people have no actual friends, and cannot even get the cat to stop peeing in their shoes. They're just a pathetic bunch of slime-crawling losers who can't be safely ignored, because no one ever knows when they're going to flip out.
Why don't we identify the MAC addresses on their network cards and block them permanently? It's substantially more difficult to change cards routinely than to change names.
Why don't we block MAC addresses you ask? Well lets see:
1) It is possible to change a MAC address so it would not really stop anyone. You don't have to change the network card to change MAC address you just have to know where to look.
2) Freedom of speech mean anything to you? Who gets to make the call who is a troll and who is just expressing their opinion. Sometimes someones opinion might be offensive and seem like they are just trolling but who are we to say?
“Freedom of Speech” doesn’t mean you have to let anyone say anything they want to on your website, just as you wouldn’t have to put up with it in your home. And while it may not always be easy to decide who is trolling and who isn’t, many trolls are obvious and could be safely actioned. Who gets to make that call? Whoever administers the website has the right and, IMO, the responsibility to make that call.
A lot of people get this mixed up, so it should be explained.
Freedom of speech, in the US anyway, means that the government may not intervene to censor speech. A website, a blog, or any other online forum run by a private individual or organization is not bound by that requirement. On my own blog I don’t enable comments, mainly because I’ve spent a few decades already on the net and don’t feel like dealing with trolls. I do have a prominent link for e-mail, so anyone who wants to disagree with me can do so, person-to-person instead of performing for others. If anyone wants to disagree publicly, they can start their own blog, which is very easy nowadays and doesn’t cost you anything — unlike the good old days when “freedom of the press” meant that you had to be able to afford your own press.
That’s a lot of what freedom of speech means, right there: you don’t like what I say? Disagree with me. Of course I’ll disagree right back, and if you say stupid things I’ll point out that they are stupid, and why. Too many people of all political persuasions think that “freedom of speech” means that no one is allowed to disagree with them — but they can disagree with everybody else. I’ve found, in my decades online, that a lot of people think that I say things publicly purely for effect: that I’m a troll who says things without thought, and I’ll be more “reasonable” in e-mail. But that’s another version of “no one is allowed to disagree with me”: it’s “no one could possibly disagree with me, they’re just pretending.” They soon find that I’m just as mean in e-mail, often more so because I’m not bound by trying to spare their feelings in front of others.
On the other hand, I don’t complain if my comments are deleted because they violated a website’s guidelines, though I also won’t comment if those guidelines are too narrow and self-serving. I can always post my opinion on my blog, linking to the material I dislike. Other people have the right to police their own sites: that’s also what “freedom of the press” means, just as a print publisher is not required to publish whatever is submitted for their consideration.
To the person that claims that trolls are necessary and useful, I’d say that’s obviously clueless, an example of “no one could possibly disagree with me,” a person so indifferent to other people that he convinces himself that his obnoxiousness is cute. “knowing you are causing people to get riled up over nothing is a hilarious hapenstance” is a giveaway. But my response to such people on other people’s sites is to not get riled up. Nothing annoys this kind of troll like having his (or her) stupidities dissected and exposed dispassionately. They *want* you to get riled up. Those who want to talk about maturity should behave maturely, by not giving them what they want.
Trolls are cowards that hide behind their keyboards. When the class clown steps over the line, you can put his lights out.
Some trolls are like playground bullies. I usually ignore them. Why make fun of someone whom you don’t even know?
Knights slay dragons. Trolls eat goats.
Graham, I disagree with the standard line about the Internet "turning normal people into trolls". That's BS IMO, and puts the blame on the medium rather than on the user. It also plays into the hands of the trolls, absolving them of any responsibility. And if it were true, we would all be trolls– which clearly isn't the case. Obviously, my real name isn't "R0nin", but that doesn't lead me to trolling. And finally, I believe that many sites could do more to get rid of trolls– if they didn't hide behind the "trolls are inevitable, it's the Internet!" excuse.
Other than that, however, the article was well done!
But I think it's certainly the case that people find it easier to be rude and offensive via the internet because it is a cold non-intimate environment, compared to real life where you're looking someone in the eye.
I doubt the people who told me they would shoot my wife in the head, or burn down my house, wouldn't have been likely to say it face-to-face.
I think it’s easier because there are no ramifications for their actions (they feel). But I don’t think that turns them into trolls. It just enables them to troll.
In other words, them doing it because they can get away with it just shows their lack of character– it doesn’t create it. They would act the same way in “real life” if they felt they could get away with it (and some do).
Again, thanks for the article!
Trolls are not class clowns, they are cyber bullies at best, cyber terrorists at their worst…
I am being picked on through facebook, the fact that it is nearly impossible to report anything to facebook and when you do they do not do anything does not help
if someone is trolling about you on facebook groups and they block you from the group then you are stuck !
facebook need to give a DIRECT email address to complain via
their help section is rubbish
if you have been blocked from someones account or group and they continue to defame you it is not possible to report them via the "report" link on their account or group because you cannot get on there !
bullies say what they like about people then block them so they cannot defend themselves.
it is a grown woman I am dealing with, not a 15 year old, it is sad and pathetic
the person who is doing it I met through a group for people with the same illness as me, she is meant to be supporting people not making them sicker because of the way she bullies : (
I looked on facebook and here is a way to report a group that you are blocked from: https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=22104755793956…
It is how people who don't have an account report, and it has a checkbox if you are blocked.
Another idea is to create a new account and report them from it
Good Luck! 🙂
I am in the same position and tried to report but I cannot access the url links. I am being told by a third party what is being posted and then quickly removed. I really need to report directly to facebook or the police. How can i make a report without url links? My mother passed away and abusive posts have been made about her and her family.
I agree that trolls are no clowns. A troll tried to get me first to crack some passwords to accounts that belong to some one it was trolling. When I refused and posted the conversation online the troll attacked me as well by trying to remove my sites, blogs,…It also wrote up hate blogs, abuse reports,….complete BS that was very confusing at best. I wondered to my self why would this thing (I stopped thinking of it in human terms) write up so much stuff and in the end all in vain because I refused to remove the conversation and on top of that forced the troll to retreat.
When did the word troll change meaning? Is this another case of media-intervention redefining a word like hacker?
A troll is someone who subtly or wittily causes others to have a passionate argument, usually in a clever way. Not some bully who harasses someone online. Trolling is an art form that is used as a form of wit to show people that they are taking some things too seriously.
Are you serious?
He cannot be serious must be a Troll!
A troll is an individual with issues.
Usually an inferiority complex cloaked in an arrogant exhibitionism.
Their lack of regard for other's feelings is learnt from the figure that constantly belittles them (often a parent).
If one must interact with a troll, I find it entertaining to publicly psychoanalyze them.
There are good trolls, ones that liven up the place with witty often tongue-in-cheek, feigned derogatory comments that are all in good fun, and then there are bad ones, like the ones stated in the article.
Unfortunately, there seems to be an increase in the latter type of troll. Ones that go for malicious, personal attacks on individuals and their beliefs, loved ones and what not. Hiding behind the shield of internet anonymity, getting their adolescent jollies by antagonizing people they may or may not know in real life. People you hope to god mouth off to the wrong person in real life one fine glorious day and recieve severe blunt impact trauma to their daddy-bags. ( Not to be sexist but the vast majority of these antagonizers seem to be male… must be a testosterone thing *shrugs* )
Most of them are probably sexually frustrated virgins.
Being in my 6th decade I would not even look at Twitter, and Facebook is strictly for family and friends. But I will never use my own name and give details of location on Forums or Blogs. I have no intention of leaving internet trails that others can intrude into my life by following. So if the use of false names and locations on Forums is "trolling" then count me as being one 🙂 But using anonymity maliciously is another matter isn't it? and some people appear to just set themselves up as targets!
Trolls are people with a very limited capacity to properly understand the viewpoint of others and they are people with no moral compass. They represent a vanishingly small part of society which has always been there, hidden amongst us.
Before the Net, they wouldn’t have been a problem. Whatever community they were living in, they would have been subject to social pressure to at least make an effort to fit in, and if they failed, no doubt the law would get involved at some point when they crossed the line.
Everything is different now. These maladjusted individuals have a platform from which they can express their warped views with the added security of anonymity, which ensures they cannot be made to take responsibility for their actions.
We are faced with a clear choice. We either allow these individuals to continue making other people miserable with no consequence to themselves, or we take action to ensure that, as before the birth of the Net, they are encouraged to conform to at least a minimum standard of civilised behaviour and, if they fail to do this, they are at least available for prosecution.
Trolls are Narcissists with an internet connection. That’s why they can’t see through other people’s point of view and have a warped sense of reality/morals.
Troll are malevolent people with no remorse for the pain and offense they perpetuate. Social networking sites need to make it more difficult to troll by making it mandatory to prove ones identity either via a debit card or copy of ones passport. I am quite certain that internet trolls are just modern day sociopaths.
Good article Graham, thanks! Honestly I just don't get how someone can hide behind a screen and threaten the lives of kids. It's weird. I wrote a post recenty about some of the different types of troll if anyone might find it interesting: http://www.koozai.com/blog/branding/reputation-ma…
There's a new way trolls bully and victimize you at first hand turn and that is the device *skype*. Don't go on skype with strangers, some just want to harass and bully you after being friendly to lure you in.
Go ahead and "Troll" to your heart''s content- but be a man and have the courage to put your real name and address in the comment.
some trolls are funny, some are not.
Trolls/internet bullies are everywhere these days. You don’t even have to provoke them because they’re so bent on making everyone’s lives miserable.