Internet Trolls
What is a Troll?
An Internet "troll" is a person who delights in sowing discord on 
the Internet. He (and it is usually he) tries to start arguments and 
upset people.

Trolls see Internet communications services as convenient venues for 
their bizarre game. For some reason, they don't "get" that they are 
hurting real people. To them, other Internet users are not quite 
human but are a kind of digital abstraction. As a result, they feel 
no sorrow whatsoever for the pain they inflict. Indeed, the greater 
the suffering they cause, the greater their 'achievement' (as they 
see it). At the moment, the relative anonymity of the net allows 
trolls to flourish.

Trolls are utterly impervious to criticism (constructive or 
otherwise). You cannot negotiate with them; you cannot cause them to 
feel shame or compassion; you cannot reason with them. They cannot 
be made to feel remorse. For some reason, trolls do not feel they 
are bound by the rules of courtesy or social responsibility.

Perhaps this sounds inconceivable. You may think, "Surely there is 
something I can write that will change them." But a true troll can 
not be changed by mere words.

 Why Does it Matter?
Some people — particularly those who have been online for years — 
are not upset by trolls and consider them an inevitable hazard of 
using the net. As the saying goes, "You can't have a picnic without 

It would be nice if everybody was so easy-going, but the sad fact is 
that trolls do discourage people. Established posters may leave a 
message board because of the arguments that trolls ignite, and 
lurkers (people who read but do not post) may decide that they do 
not want to expose themselves to abuse and thus never get involved.

Another problem is that the negative emotions stirred up by trolls 
leak over into other discussions. Normally affable people can become 
bitter after reading an angry interchange between a troll and his 
victims, and this can poison previously friendly interactions 
between long-time users.

Finally, trolls create a paranoid environment, such that a casual 
criticism by a new arrival can elicit a ferocious and inappropriate 

The Internet is a wonderful resource which is breaking down barriers 
and stripping away prejudice. Trolls threaten our continued 
enjoyment of this beautiful forum for ideas.

What Can be Done about Trolls?

When you suspect that somebody is a troll, you might try responding 
with a polite, mild message to see if it's just somebody in a bad 
mood. Internet users sometimes let their passions get away from them 
when seated safely behind their keyboard. If you ignore their 
bluster and respond in a pleasant manner, they usually calm down.

However, if the person persists in being beastly, and seems to enjoy 
being unpleasant, the only effective position is summed up as 

The only way to deal with trolls is to limit your reaction to 
reminding others not to respond to trolls.

When you try to reason with a troll, he wins. When you insult a 
troll, he wins. When you scream at a troll, he wins. The only thing 
that trolls can't handle is being ignored.

What Not to Do

As already stated, it is futile to try to "cure" a troll of his 
obsession. But perhaps you simply cannot bear the hostile 
environment that the troll is creating and want to go away for a 

If you do that, then for the sake of the others on the system, 
please do not post a dramatic "Goodbye!" message. This convinces the 
troll that he is winning the battle. There is, perhaps, no message 
you can write on a message system that is as damaging as an 
announcement that you are leaving because of the hostility that the 
troll has kindled.

If you feel you must say something, a discreet message to the system 
operator (and some of the others users, if you have their email 
addresses) is the best course of action. Incidentally, if you are 
writing the letter in an agitated state, it is a good idea to wait 
an hour and then give it one last review before you actually send 
it. That might spare you the pain of saying things that you don't 
really mean to people you like.


One technique used by trolls to generate chaos is to pretend to be a 
well-liked person. On some systems there is nothing to prevent 
somebody from signing your name to a distasteful message. On other 
systems the troll may have to be a bit more wiley, perhaps by 
replacing one character with another. Here are some examples of 
various spoofing gimmicks that could be used against a person named 
Brenda Q. O'Really:

Brenda Q. O"Really Brenda Q. 0'Really Brenda Q  O'Really 
Brenda Q. O'Rea11y Bredna Q. O'Really 8renda Q. O'Really 

Note: "Brenda Q. O'Really" is a made-up name used to illustrate 
spoofing and is not intended to refer to a particular person.

If you react with anger, the troll wins. So if you see a message 
impersonating you on a message board, simply write a follow-up reply 
entitled "That Wasn't Me" and type only this:

I did not write that message; it is a fake.

Of course, sometimes you will find that people who know you well 
have already identified the message as a fake and have tagged it as 
such. After all, one of the troll's goals is to make you look bad. 
If you have a good reputation, people will be tipped off if a 
message that you apparently wrote is completely out of character.

Trolls have been known to become so irritated at having their spoofs 
identified that they have learned to write in another person's 
style. They may end up writing an intelligent message that is 
indistinguishable from your own golden words. If that happens, you 
can always just let the post stand and take credit for it!

Trolls will also sometimes write a "That Wasn't Me" message after a 
genuine one, attempting to elicit a denial. There really is no 
reason to give him what he wants, since a "That Wasn't Me" warning 
merely reminds people to be skeptical. That is to say, it is of no 
real consequence if somebody isn't sure that you wrote a normal 
message, since in the long run it is the ideas that are important.

The Webmaster's Challenge

When trolls are ignored they step up their attacks, desperately 
seeking the attention they crave. Their messages become more and 
more foul, and they post ever more of them. Alternatively, they may 
protest that their right to free speech is being curtailed — more on 
this later.

The moderator of a message board may not be able to delete a troll's 
messages right away, but their job is made much harder if they also 
have to read numerous replies to trolls. They are also forced to 
decide whether or not to delete posts from well-meaning folks which 
have the unintended effect of encouraging the troll.

Some webmasters have to endure conscientious users telling them that 
they are "acting like dictators" and should never delete a single 
message. These people may be misinformed: they may have arrived at 
their opinion about a troll based on the messages they see, never 
realizing that the webmaster has already deleted his most horrific 
material. Please remember that a troll does have an alternative if 
he has something of value to say: there are services on the net that 
provide messaging systems free of charge. So the troll can set up 
his own message board, where he can make his own decisions about the 
kind of content he will tolerate.

Just how much can we expect of a webmaster when it comes to 
preserving the principles of free speech? Some trolls find sport in 
determining what the breaking point is for a particular message 
board operator. They might post a dozen messages, each of which 
contains 400 lines of the letter "J". That is a form of expression, 
to be sure, but would you consider it your duty to play host to such 
a person?

Perhaps the most difficult challenge for a webmaster is deciding 
whether to take steps against a troll that a few people find 
entertaining. Some trolls do have a creative spark and have chosen 
to squander it on being disruptive. There is a certain perverse 
pleasure in watching some of them. Ultimately, though, the webmaster 
has to decide if the troll actually cares about putting on a good 
show for the regular participants, or is simply playing to an 
audience of one — himself.

What about Free Speech?

When trolls find that their efforts are being successfully resisted, 
they often complain that their right to free speech is being 
infringed. Let us examine that claim.

While most people on the Internet are ardent defenders of free 
speech, it is not an absolute right; there are practical 
limitations. For example, you may not scream out "Fire!" in a 
crowded theatre, and you may not make jokes about bombs while 
waiting to board an airplane. We accept these limitations because we 
recognize that they serve a greater good.

Another useful example is the control of the radio frequency 
spectrum. You might wish to set up a powerful radio station to 
broadcast your ideas, but you cannot do so without applying for a 
license. Again, this is a practical limitation: if everybody 
broadcasted without restriction, the repercussions would be annoying 
at best and life-threatening at worst.

The radio example is helpful for another reason: with countless 
people having a legitimate need to use radio communications, it is 
important to ensure that nobody is 'monopolizing the channel'. There 
are only so many clear channels available in each frequency band and 
these must be shared.

When a troll attacks a message board, he generally posts a lot of 
messages. Even if his messages are not particularly inflammatory, 
they can be so numerous that they drown out the regular 
conversations (this is known as 'flooding'). Needless to say, no one 
person's opinions can be allowed to monopolize a channel.

The ultimate response to the 'free speech' argument is this: while 
we may have the right to say more or less whatever we want, we do 
not have the right to say it wherever we want. You may feel strongly 
about the fact that your neighbour has not mowed his lawn for two 
months, but you do not have the right to berate him in his own 
living room. Similarly, if a webmaster tells a troll that he is not 
welcome, the troll has no "right" to remain. This is particularly 
true on the numerous free communications services offered on the 
net. (On pay systems, the troll might be justified in asking for a 

Why Do They Do It?


Regular net users know how delightful it is when somebody responds 
to something they have written. It is a meeting of the minds, which 
is an intellectual thrill, but it is also an acknowledgement of 
one's value — and that can be a very satisfying emotional reward.

Trolls crave attention, and they care not whether it is positive or 
negative. They see the Internet as a mirror into which they can gaze 
in narcissistic rapture.

If you want a deeper analysis than that, perhaps a psychologist can 
shed some additional light on the matter.


Next time you are on a message board and you see a post by somebody 
whom you think is a troll, and you feel you must reply, simply write 
a follow-up message entitled "Troll Alert" and type only this:

The only way to deal with trolls is to limit your reaction to 
reminding others not to respond to trolls.

By posting such a message, you let the troll know that you know what 
he is, and that you are not going to get dragged into his twisted 
little hobby.

The Internet is a splendidly haphazard collection of both serious 
and silly material. Because it is so free, there are bound to be 
problems. I think that we can best enjoy it if we deal with 
everything that happens online with a wry grin and a ready shrug.

 I am a new member here. I have joined to learn more on the TM 
Movement. I do work on campus. I don't do TM, but i have a a chance 
to do so. I enjoy reading everyone who give post so far, even if i 
don't understand all. Thank You for letting me join and learn.  Pat

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