We’ve all seen them; hateful little creatures that roam the vast planes of online message boards and the caves of social networking sites. Trolls, ugly monsters who feed on hate and sorrow. These creatures are one of the most aggressive types of the online natives, second only to online gamers in their eagerness for conflict and predisposition towards colorful language. Luckily, despite all their posturing Trolls are mostly harmless, as long as you know how to respond to them. Like most things on the Internet, Trolls are counter-intuitive, the more you fight them the stronger they become. So, first rule of all troll attacks, DO NOT FEED THE TROLL. When facing trolls the only winning move is not to play. However these days the Successful Trolls know this, and have become more subtle with their trolling. So now the biggest part of the battle is knowing when you’ve being trolled. So here are the five most common forms of trolling, and how to survive them.
Flaming is the most basic and most common form of trolling on the internet. Flames are any hateful remark thrown at an individual or group, usually something racist. If you want good examples of flames, simply log onto XBLA and play or observe a game of Halo, Gears of War, or any modern shooter (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, Brown Dull Shooter 4; Revenge of the Bloom Effects, etc, etc). Chances are you will hear a 13 year old screaming ethnic slurs at anyone and everyone.
Flames are generally not planned in advance, simply random insults thrown at you on the spur of the moment. While the most common form of trolling, they are also the easiest to avoid. To beat a flame simply ignore it. If the troll in question is getting particularly nasty reporting them to a site moderator or admin will usually end the problem. Also a fun fact, if the flamer threatens your life, that is a crime and they can be arrested for it. There are many cases of this happening, so there’s a fun weapon against particularly annoying or persistent flamers.
The biggest threat flames pose is igniting a “Flame War.” These events generally occur on message boards or other forums where a discussion or debate is starting to get heated or sour. Politics, sports, drunken celebrity sex videos, any topic that is devise can be a powderkeg just waiting for a flame to ignite it. Flame wars are basically just two or more groups lobbing insults and personal attacks instead of talking. In the real world we like to call these “primaries.”
#2 Troll Bait
Look at the image, look at it. If you felt the urge to jump to the comments section and point out anything, then congratulations, you’re a nerd, but also you’ve been trolled. Troll baits are intentionally wrong statements intended to start an argument. Other examples include:
-”I love Captain Kirk, he’s my favorite Jedi in Battlestar Galactic.”
-”I think Kanye West is a kind and respectable gentleman.”
This particular brand of trolling relies on the victim’s knowledge of the subject, their willingness to debate it, and how stubborn they are. As such these are most common on fan sites and message boards. Though the advantage of this method of trolling is the troll does not have to be present to troll. Like traps in a forest the troll can simply leave the offending posts, then come back later to harvest the laughs from the angry comments. Particularly feisty victims may be further agitated with more incorrect comments or further assertions that the initial post is correct.
The best way to counter these are to simply ignore them. Resist the urge to explain the errors of their ways. They know they are wrong and don’t care. The tricky part is spotting the trolls, as really successful trolls are almost indistinguishable from regular stupid people.
Raids are the most devastating type of troll attack and are not to be taken lightly. Raids happen when a group of trolls decide to launch coordinated attacks on a person or website. These attacks can last anywhere from a few hours, to a few years, depending on the entertainment of the target. Raiding trolls can deploy a wide variety of tactics, including, but not limited to; DDoS attacks to disable the site; images of mutilated corpses, horrible accidents, animal cruelty, or scatological pornography to disturb the patrons of the site; coordinated flames; hacking private e-mails or other accounts; spreading lies and dissent; griefing; and generally being dicks.
Unlike most forms of trolling, simply ignoring the raiders will not make them go away. Raids are loud, brash, and offensive; disrupting the normal functions of the site they’re attacking.
The first step to surviving a raid is prevention. Avoid making yourself a target. The is generally done by not taunting Anonymous or other troll groups. Hal Turner (NSFW), a white supremisit online talk show host, taunted Anonymous once, and his site suffered a two year long raid, ending with his e-mail being hacked and Turner being exposed as an FBI informer, blowing his cover and removing his protection that was blocking a criminal charge for threatening a Federal Judge. Subeta (NSFW) was an online pet site that taunted Anonymous, they suffered a raid that drove off an impressive number of users and exposed misuse of funds. Lesson: Don’t taunt the trolls. Alone they aren’t much of a threat, but members of groups like these can report back to the group and bring alarmingly large groups together at the drop of a hat.
Second, make yourself an unappealing target. Raids are done for one of two reasons; for “teh luzls,” IE for amusement, or for petty revenge. If your site is of an odd enough niche, like how to dress a badger in cute outfits, or anything furry related, then it is likely for amusement. If you are running a site that is being raided the best thing to do is to tell your users not to panic, keep calm, do not talk to trolls, and disable the ability to post images on your site, and disable signatures in the forums (as trolls tend to abuse signatures). In essence clam up, remove as many tools as your can from the hands of the trolls, and delete their posts as swiftly and silently as your can. Remember, trolls feed on attention, do not feed the trolls. As long as you don’t give them anything, they will eventually leave. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU TELL THEM YOU ARE WINNING OR YOU ARE GOING TO WIN. This will only encourage them. If you aren’t the moderator or administrator of a site that is being raided, then your best option is to make sure the password for that site doesn’t match the password you have for important sites, and then leave the site for a few days.
#4 Bad Advice
This is advice dog, do not take his advice. Bad advice is the most subtle and potentially damaging form of trolling. This type of trolling is generally seen on Yahoo Answers, or similar places where people are asking questions or seeking advice. The troll will give a suggestion, acting as helpful as they can, knowing full well the suggestion will do nothing but damage the victim. As an example, deleting system.32 from a Windows PC will render the machine unusable, requiring a system restore (assuming the victim made a restore point, otherwise a full system reinstall would be required).
This is also a rare example of double trolling. If you are ignorant of the subject you’re asking about, you could easily take the bad advice and make your situation worse. Or if you know enough about the subject to know what the troll is saying is wrong, then you might get mad and respond to the troll. Either way the troll wins.
The only way to counter this method of trolling is to do the unthinkable; research. If given a piece of advice that sounds odd, try to search around the internet to see if the advice is commonly given. Usually a quick Google or Bing search is all that is required to dispel the troll’s ruse. Alternatively wait for other responders to react to the potential troll. However this can backfire if more trolls back up the first.