Simply put an internet troll is a person who butts into your conversation looking for an argument or reaction by making an (often) offensive comment. You may be familiar with this type of person from your own real life (or "RL" as us internet types tend to say) experiences. I know I have certainly met a few.
They are the people that seek attention by making comments they think will spark a strong reaction from people. Whilst it can be constructive to question the status quo this is not their motivation. Their motivation is to cause upset and annoyance, and to try to look superior. Trolls have been described as narcissists, psychopaths and sadists and these studies show that's exactly the type of anti social traits they display. "Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun ... and the Internet is their playground!" So why has trolling come about? It has always been around in society but the rise of social networking has made very easy to make a comment on a network and allow people to feel anonymised becuase it's online. The flip side is these social networks are now places people usually feel safe, and are places where people like to express themselves, sometimes within closed groups, but more often in groups which are open to the public. This makes them the perfect hunting ground for the internet troll. High Profile Trolls There have been some very high profile trolls around recently for example the Hillsborough disaster troll, Robert Ambridge who made sick jokes about the event and other bombings on Twitter. His defense was along the lisnes of; Twitter is an open network, people should be allowed to read whatever they like, its not his fault if they don't like it. So is he a troll or a "satirical terrorist"? We all have a dark side, so perhaps his points of view and "darkly funny" comments should be considered ok? Well not when young impressionable minds can access that material...but perhaps he didn't think of that! How about the McCann troll commenting that the family was responsible or in some way involved in the young girls dissaperance? Would you ever feel so strongly about something that you would be willing to hide behind a fake online profile to say what you want to say? "Ordinary" Trolls (internet bullies) We have encountered some lower profile trolling type activities too. An example being a case where a friend saw a conversation about a current religious war on Facebook and commented "wouldnt it be nice if they all just stopped fighting" (we agree, generally speaking) however this caused a flurry of abuse from one person who though that this seemingly innocent comment was a call to arms, insulting the friend of ours and insinuating all sorts of things about their personality. Our friend asked us what to do, we reported the post to the Facebook community and it was removed (the troll probably also got a 48hr ban). We also made sure to block the troll from any further contact using the tools available in the social network. Jail Time For Trolls The law is trying to tackle the issue of trolling online. It's a mamouth task. Part of the deterrant is that a troll can face prison time for the more serious offenses. A serious offence is much the same as a threat so far as we can tell eg "I'm going to get/kill you". Whilst your mum may have said that a couple of time to you when you did something naughty when you were a a kid it's not the same thing as an actual threat, and it is that which can be difficult to define without context which is so often missing online. Can I have a Good Ol Rant Online? Now I like a good rant occasionally just as much as anyone else. We don't condone trolling at all... but sometimes you may feel the need to let off some steam which is another matter. Online just isn't a great place to do it but if you will insist on doing such things here are a couple of tips so you don't attract trolls or offend anyone yourself! On Facebook you can add "close friends" to a list, when you feel like a rant only post to close friends that you know "get you", and won't be offended if you get a little racy. If you don't have Facebook to hand, write an email with all the naughty words you feel like saying in it, don't send it, come back to it ten minutes later and read it back to yourself. Does it still make sense or do you think you should probably calm down a bit?! Shrug It Off Not attracting trolls in the first place goes along the same principals whatever network you are using to communicate with friends, colleagues or potential customers. Make sure you know the privacy settings of the network you are using. Think about what you are saying before you just say it. If someone does try and grind your gears then ignore them. Getting a reaction of any kind is exactly what trolls get off on. There are usually some community managed tools which will allow you to report people who are trolling. Don't be afraid to use them, they should be annoymous. Hope this makes you think!