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Published 10 July 2015

Becci Cook

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Internet Trolling

In recent years ‘internet trolling’ has become a frequently used phrase to label what is effectively online harassment or in more severe cases – online bullying.

Wikipedia defines it as…

A person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

Being a social media enthusiast, I witness a variety of communication amongst users, most of it positive and entertaining, however there are often differences in opinion which can trigger heated discussions. On social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter people tend to post not only about their lives or about what’s trending, controversial subjects are openly discussed in these public domains. Freedom of speech is embraced on social media. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it remains tasteful and respectful of all involved and of course on topic. It can be extremely disconcerting to see a user being abused for no apparent reason through nasty sabotaging comments that have no relevance to their original post. This is what internet trolls tend to do, they aim to upset people and offend to get a response, rather like picking a fight but in the virtual realms.

The Internet troll hides behind their computer screen, and actively goes out of their way to cause trouble on the Internet. Like the mythological troll, the Internet troll is angry and disruptive in every possible – often for no real reason at all.

The media has highlighted instances where young vulnerable people have taken their own life as a result of being trolled which indicates the severity of it and the effects it can have on the recipient’s mental health. Fortunately laws accommodate the punishment of online trolling, it is a criminal offense and there are cases where trolls have received prison sentences as well as being banned from all social media platforms, blogs and forums and rightly so!

What do we do to resolve online trolling?

Other than the current regulations in place and extensive monitoring, there is a well-known mantra ‘do not feed the trolls’ which essentially means do not respond to troll like comments as it only encourages them to continue. Trolling goes one step further than merely winding someone up or having a joke at their subjects expense. Trolls concern themselves in conversations without being invited and wrongly promote hate and malice.

Like in real life when you have to bite your tongue to avoid a dispute, it is really important now more than ever to think before you post anything public and let that troll go hungry!

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