How to Handle Online Trolls
Sometimes silence is golden, but other times you have to speak up. Here’s how
Internet trolls are often-anonymous online users who target others by posting rude, threatening, harassing or hateful comments on articles or in social media posts. According to the Pew Research Center, most of us have witnessed trolls at work: 73 percent of adult Internet users report having seen someone being harassed online and 40 percent have been harassed themselves.
If you’re attacked by a troll online, what should you do? Avoid a mean-spirited, off-the-cuff retort. You’ll just add fuel to the fire. Here are five steps to take instead.
Related: New Twitter Rules Ban Mean Speech
1. Ignore them. Internet trolls are fanning flames and trying to make you angry. Don’t give them the satisfaction, and they’ll likely go away. Ignoring trolls is a common way to deal with them, according to the Pew Research Center, which reports 60 percent of people ignored their most recent trolling incidents.
2. Use humor. When you make light of a troll’s comment, you acknowledge the situation and defuse it at the same time, according to Social Media Examiner. The publication used this Twitter exchange from 2012 as an example:
Another example: BuzzFeed Canada senior writer Scaachi Koul responded to several Twitter trolls by tweeting lines from “Good Will Hunting” in response to their barbs. The trolls got confused, and she had all the fun.
3. Reveal their identity. Trolls thrive on being anonymous, but you may be surprised what a little digging can uncover. This doesn’t mean you should broadcast their full name and address, of course. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But as author and Guardian columnist Tim Dowling says, the information you uncover could be “just enough to turn your rage into pity. I, for example, enjoy reading the blogs of people who tell me I can't write.”
4. Use the tools at your disposal. If you’re being trolled in an article comment environment, see if there’s a “report abuse” button to alert a moderator who can intervene or block the troll’s comments. If you’re being trolled on Facebook, block the trolling user. If the abuse is on Twitter, use the block, mute or report functions found under “user actions.” Other social media platforms may have different, but similar, tools. Be proactive — don’t suffer in silence.
Speaking of Twitter tools, the social media giant, which has long been criticized for not doing enough to limit threats and abuse aimed at users, recently formed a Trust and Safety Council. The council is "a new and foundational part of our strategy to ensure that people feel safe expressing themselves on Twitter." It's made up of 40 members, including safety advocates, academics, researchers and community organizations with "an acute need to prevent abuse, harassment and bullying."
5. Fight back with facts. If trolls are spreading rumors, false information or inaccuracies, correct them using facts. For example, you may remember when Apple released the iPhone6 and many people took to social media to poke fun at phones that bent when you put them in your pocket. Apple defended their product against the trolls, saying there was an issue with bending, but it affected very few customers. In fact, Apple reported receiving only nine complaints about bending phones.
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