1. I wouldn’t equate trolls with comedians and court jesters. Trolls belong in the same box as the poison pen letter writers of old.
    Trolls are not entertaining or thought provoking. Their only motive is to offend and abuse.

    1. I disagree. My ex-boyfriend was a serial troll, yet constantly denied the brand whenever it was applied to him. He never meant to offend and abuse, they were just the side effects. His intention was always along the lines of pointing out the ridiculous position or arguments (in his opinion) people used, to play devil’s advocate, or because he’d thought up some particularly loathsome but very defensible argument. He loved to be thought of as clever, and saw trolling (or ‘arguing’ as he preferred) as a way to show his intelligence and wit. The motive was not to hurt others, but to build himself up. Don’t think that because someone is trolling you, it’s because of anything you have said or done. It’s all about the troll themselves.

  2. My own conclusion: It’s OK to troll. But if you’re going to troll, be *real* good at it. And be prepared to stand behind your view and take any blowback.

  3. Weirdly, although Laurel’s prescription for a cure sounds spot-on, I reckon her diagnosis is crook! Equating trolls with ‘court jesters’ and ‘comedians’ is almost a trollworthy level of false equivalence. Well played ma’am. I wish I ever met a troll who was even 1% worthy of the title of a ‘court jester’ or ‘comedian’. The only trolls I ever encounter are on the same level as your average flasher in Central Park. Or a urine-filled condom thrower. Or those bits of dog-poop that get stuck in the grooves of your shoe-grip. Obviously I don’t spend enough time in the rareified circles of social media commentary. All that said, take two of Laurel’s suggestions for getting rid of the buggers and you’ll see no trolls by morning!

  4. Trolling if done constructively can really help you to realize when to introspect yourself and see if you have started to develop some bad habit. But it should not get off limits.

  5. I’d only call a person a troll who was in the nuisance category, or intended gratuitous harm, or was trying to be clever or funny repeatedly and failing miserably at it.

  6. I don’t understand large corporates who don’t moderate their social media pages and who allow trolls to belittle and badger their clients. A recent example was Qantas where a small group of guys respond on behalf of the company, pick up grammar and spelling, tell people why should they expect a response when they were stupid enough not to read the fine print, and on it goes. It seems to be done with Qantas blessing. It generates discussion because the trolls want you to bite and argue but it’s not a positive thing.

  7. Trolls if done strategically in the service of marketing an idea, especially a big idea can definitely serve as a great social and viral marketing tool that could skyrocket or explode somebody’s business in the context of helping transform people’s lives.

  8. While I do
    believe in the social purpose of jesters, (internet) trolls and jesters are two
    very different things (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)). Court
    jesters ran the risk of being beheaded, online trolls simply hide behind
    anonymity, so that they can offend and threaten others without punishment. It’s
    a pity that this interesting post suffers from such a confusion of terms,
    because the question being posed is important: how can we create an open
    framework for free speech (including humourous criticism) that still protects
    participants from offense and data corruption? Freedom without responsibility
    usually leads to anarchy, so I believe we ultimately need a bill of rights for
    the internet. In moderated online groups or inside organisations, social media
    policies already give a taste on how this might work. Don’t you think?

    1. Thanks for your reaction to my comment on Twitter, Laurel. 140 characters are not long
      enough to address it, so I’ll do it here.

      Your tweet:
      @GeorgKolb I use 20 yr old USEnet vocab not Wikipedia – & how does examples
      not deliver? *puzzled*

      Of course, you are free to define the term “troll” as you like, and I sincerely appreciate your intellectual exercise here. But you will understand that reading a title such as yours on this post does raise high expectations, in particular with those who have had first-hand experience with online trolls and bullying. The definition on Wikipedia I referred to in my earlier comment is not at all uncommon or new, just google internet trolls to find a sad selection of cases. And it isn’t any different from the Usenet vocabulary,in fact, it goes back to Usenet times when users realized that there is nothing constructive in trolls.They don’t want to open new horizons or make us all smarter through a carnival of thoughts as you suggest. They just want to offend and inflame. And it is exactly for that reason that Usenet users tried to help each other out with the maxime “Don’t feed the trolls!”, they even had many different icons for that http://jni.sdf-eu.org/trolls.html. When you feed the trolls, when you get engaged with them, the mud fight gets overtime, nothing good will come from it.

      A very important constituent of internet trolls is their use of anonymity. You don’t mention it once in your post. I find that peculiar, because it’s their source of power and what makes them different from offline trolls, and so hard to fight.

      And with that, on to your proposed fixes based on examples (even if most of them actually
      aren’t internet troll cases in the sense outlined above):

      – “Voice of choice vs. trolls”: How does that work with an anonymous online troll? He will only appreciate the attention. Even if it worked, how many trolled people have a cause that will create a lobby group to support them?

      – “Internet vigilantism vs. trolls”: Excuse me, but it seems you are putting the fox in charge of the henhouse here! Do you really think “abusive video responses” are the solution to an insensitive girl exposing herself in an online video? Internet vigilantes can be a powerful source of itelligence and enlightenment, but they can also turn into an abusive crowd, and they will only start the chase, if there is a cause supported by many.

      – “Director of Prosecution Community Consultation”: Education and consultation are good and
      necessary, but always a long shot, too long for most troll victims. In a way this example is indicative for the whole situation: the prosecutor trying to educate and consult where it’s hard to prosecute,dealing with technical barriers, privacy issues, and the incredible speed. On top of that the task of balancing the right of free speech and the need to prosecute wrongdoing case by case.

      – “Individual voices in a community count”: As you say, this is an offline example, your idea
      to crowdsource support sites for troll victims is not more than just that, an idea.

      Laurel, I do really thank you for the effort trying to “fix the troll and bullying problem”, but, I’m afraid, you didn’t manage to do it. You end your post with a lot of questions. So, if not my thoughts, your own question marks prove that the post doesn’t deliver on its title.

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