Some of the posts start out reasonably enough (albeit rather anatomically specific) for a normal human being who’s enamored of a celebrity…
You have agreeable bone structure, and I want to go out with you.
…but then quickly spike into troll-ese:
If you had to genocide an entire race which race would it be and why?
That’s just one of the 1000+ messages that have been archived and published by their target, Mia Matsumiya.
Matsumiya, who’s based in Los Angeles, describes herself as a violinist and a “perv magnet.” Reading the messages published on Instagram under her perv_magnet account, it’s obvious that she’s not exaggerating.
She’s using Instagram to demonstrate the violence, aggression and volume of messages she’s received and captured via screenshot over 10 years, in an effort to show how relentlessly women are abused online.
Some of the posts are racist:
You do realize that one day, you're going to have a son and he's going to be small and Asian, just like the men you hate.
So why not just abort whatever son you have?
He will know that his own mother thought white men were superior.
While some of her troll followers are persistent, many post graphically violent sexual threats, and some combine all the above in a stream of hatred to a woman they’ve never met.
In other words, your standard trolls.
As scientists have found is typical of troll behavior, the abusive posts exhibit what even non-scientists would easily recognize as sadistic pleasure in others’ suffering (i.e., sadism) and psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy).
One thing that can be said about Matsumiya: as she gets, so she gives.
In one memorable exchange, she suggests that it would be great to see her correspondent rescued from drowning by a boat full of women, cough up sea water, and blurt out the same, inappropriate sexual question he’d posed to the violinist.
Then, a shark would come bite off the part of his body to which his initial question pertained.
Judging by the comments on perv_magnet’s comebacks, such verbal sparring, unsurprisingly, gives some of her followers satisfaction.
Not to criticize Matsumiya’s method of dealing with trolls, mind you, but it’s good to know that there are other ways to deal with cyberbullies – ways that don’t tangle victims in bile-filled, back-and-forth, downward spirals.
One such resource is Stop Abuse Online, a site launched in June by the UK government that aims to help victims of online abuse.
Aimed primarily at women and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people, which it says are the most abused groups on the internet, the site offers advice on finding help and reporting offenses, as well as getting offensive content removed.
Then there’s the “Don’t feed the trolls” approach of just ignoring them and not rising to their bait.
Then again, there’s also the Curt Schilling approach.
Back in March, the former Red Sox pitcher famously ignored the old “ignore them” advice about dealing with trolls and named and shamed them instead.
At one point, the count was up to nine trolls – all of whom had been hurling the same malodorous muck at Schilling’s daughter as the kind that Matsumiya sheds a light on – who’d been fired or kicked off athletic teams because of Schilling having published their tweets, their names, schools, and some of their sports and playing positions.
It’s a satisfying story to tell. But it’s crucial to remember that not all of us have the clout of an ex-sports star like Schilling.
The rest of us non-celebrities must bear in mind that taking on trolls can have extremely dangerous consequences.
I’m thinking here of swatting.
The term is derived from SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) and describes the practice of making bogus emergency calls, as a prank or as revenge, that result in the dispatch of emergency services.
Gamers live-streaming on Twitch.TV have been swatted.
Security journalist Brian Krebs has been swatted.
A US lawmaker pushing for an anti-swatting bill has been swatted.
Gamers entangled in #gamergate have been swatted.
Readers, have you ever been targeted by trolls? Have your children?
How do you deal with an internet troll?