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What is a troll?
An online troll is very similar to a
playground bully, in adult form. They
find their victims online, while staying
well-hidden behind a keyboard. Norse
mythology refers to trolls (ie the
monsters who live under a bridge) as
being ever-vigilant, never sleeping,
mean spirited, snarling and abusive—the
trolls we find online are generally so
too. That being said, not all trolls display
these qualities all the time. Many are
surprisingly sensitive and downright
pleasant face to face, away from their
keyboard. Some trolls are anonymous
but many are not—either way, they’re
individuals who take pleasure in
antagonistic online behaviour.
Social media and trolls
The unfortunate reality of the situation
is that due to the nature of our society
and the way we communicate with
one another digitally, trolls are all but
unavoidable. As great as the internet is
for keeping in touch with family, friends
and your customers, it also puts all users
in the crosshairs of cowardly trolls who
are on the search for their next victim.
As news and lottery agents, you are likely
to come across them regularly, via email,
on your social media pages, on blogs, on
websites. You name a medium and they
will be there.
Yes, social media and blogging platforms
do try to eradicate trolling through
privacy setting options, but those who
are vindictive enough and have a little
know-how will find a way to break the
rules. Given this, it’s important for you to
be aware of how to deal with instances
Whether they are anonymous, use a
pseudonym or troll using their given
name loudly and proudly, what they do
is not ok and should not be encouraged.
Yes, their words upset you and your
natural instinct is to start typing a
comment to set the record straight but
the thing is, these attacks are deliberate.
They WANT to upset you, they WANT you
to reply so they can troll you some more
until the whole issue snowballs into an
Would you give in to a schoolyard bully in
the same way?
An article was published by The Guardian which listed three important
lessons to be learned about trolls. They’ve been summarised and expanded
1. The desire to troll could be a psychological condition or personality
disorder; studies conducted on the psychology of trolls have deemed
they display noxious personality characteristics; they’re generally
Machiavellian (impulsive and charming manipulators), psychopathic (cold,
fearless and antisocial) and are prototypical everyday sadists. In this light,
they should be pitied instead of feared or reasoned with.
2. Trolling unleashes the impulses of trollers by providing anonymity
and temporary identity loss; psychologists call this deindividuation.
Being able to hide behind a keyboard removed the need to adhere to
moral constraints and social etiquettes the troller would abide by when
interacting with someone in person, allowing for the trolling to seem like
an acceptable form of interaction.
3. Trolling is a status enhancing activity, in the troller’s eyes; the act
of upsetting people, sparking heated debates and gaining approval from
others allows the troller to feel a sense of importance they may not be
able to experience in their real lives.
Trolling and the law
One thing you need to know—defamation
laws which apply to every other aspect
of life in Australia also apply to online.
Defamation refers to public statements
which could damage the good
reputation of the subject, the statement
becoming a public one if it’s viewed by
two or more people.
In the instance of online communication,
anyone that publishes a defamatory
social media post or blogpost becomes
exposed to being sued, if the person the
defamatory post is about chooses to take
Commenting anonymously does not do
much to protect trolls, particularly on
blogs—in such instances, the owner of
the blog could be made to hand over
information such as the IP addresses of
the anonymous commenters, which is
very easily accessible via most content
management systems which host blogs.
The owner’s social media pages or blogs
which have defamatory comments on
them are also exposed to being sued
if they do not remove the defamatory
comments immediately —even if the
owner themselves have never published a
defamatory post or comment themselves.
Given this, you need to careful what you
put out there via your pages.
Also, you need to think who is reading
your posts/blog? What is the Bank
Manager who you have just asked to
extend your overdraft going to think, if
they see such content on your pages? Or
that potential buyer for your business?
How to respond to trolls
Ultimately all trolls, regardless of shape
or form, have one ulterior motive—to
induce a reaction. In my eyes, there’s
only one way to beat them at their own
game, treat them like the screaming two-
year-old having tantrum—ignore them
completely. Also like the old adage, don’t
write an email when you’re angry, you
will regret it every time. Responding to a
troll when provoked will only had fuel to
Trolls post inflammatory comments and
responses because they want a reaction,
so don’t give them the satisfaction of
Trolls need reactions to feel important
and justified, so just ignore them and
they will eventually understand how
irrelevant they are; also don’t get caught
having to fight a legal battle because of
someone else’s words. If you feel you
must take action as extremely threatened
by the troll, you should forward the
messages to the police.
Don’t be tempted by a troll’s bait. You’re
better than that.
Words: Alf Maccioni, CEO, Australian
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