How to deal with Internet Trolls


Picked up this link from LinkedIn this morning. Apparently there are people with nothing better to do than post defamatory views on the works of others. Known as ‘trolls’. Not the dark Scandinavian monsters of legend, hiding under bridges to waylay the unwary, nor cute hairy little dolls sold as souvenirs. No. These trolls are most often sad, twisted, and rather lonely individuals with a keyboard and no real friends ‘trolling’ as in fishing terms, web sites and forums for attention. Most likely they are powerless people on an ego trip.

The best way to deal with these people is not to engage. ‘Do not feed the trolls’ being the cardinal unwritten rule of most comment threads. Because that is what they want. ‘Feeding’ / engagement, attention. To snag your ID from your e-mail address reply so as to impersonate you. A better idea is to let them batter their worthless souls senseless by simply removing their abusive / insulting posts from your web site comment threads without mention. In short, send them to electronic oblivion. Deny them the vindication of existence. Damn their sayings with faint praise if need be, but preferably do not even acknowledge their existence, or the existence of their insults, ever. If necessary ‘down arrow’ their reviews or mark their ‘review’ as ‘unhelpful’. Trust me, there are all sorts of ways to deal with these stalkers rather than the hi-tech. Psychology will always be your friend.

For the technically minded there are other, but more intensive, answers. Go on a ‘troll hunt’ if you must, but only if there is no other recourse. I posted this advisory comment as a rough guide on how to proceed over at ‘TheBookChick’

May I offer a little advice. The Internet is not anonymous. It is relatively easy to track these abusive posters down via their IP address if you know how. Even if they do the normally cowardly troll trick of hiding behind what are called ‘Anonymous proxies’. There is always a trail of electronic breadcrumbs.

With their home IP address you can track the point of origin of the abusive poster. Using ‘Whois’ (Type into search bar and use one of the many free services), Find out their service provider / employer and lay formal complaint that their user / employee (Cite time of posting and IP address) is in breach of their terms of service for posting abusive and insulting material. Ask a lawyer if you need to go all formal on your antagonist. If that fails, with the evidence at your back, simply threaten to publicly post that such and such a service provider / organisation encourages abusive posting.

Remember, trolls are creatures of darkness, they hate the light.

Which is rather provocative, as there are as many ways to block as there are to discover, and an IP address is not a phone number, permanently linked to one subscriber. The Media Access Control number, if you can find it, is a unique identifier for each individual web accessing device. Oddly enough, this can be tracked relatively easily if your abuser is not ultra careful with their wireless device using public Wi-Fi. A simple web search will throw up all sorts of tricks and tools for this very purpose.

In short, everything anyone does on line can be recorded and tracked. Find the IP address, which is the number divided into two or three letter groups by full stops (It will be in the header information of their post), and go to somewhere like IP Tracker online. For advice on how to track down the anonymous abusers to their source from a cops standpoint, may I recommend this article as a good starting point. This article is also useful, with several handy pointers on where to look. Yes it means extra work, but if someone is hurting you, what recourse have you got? While not infallible, there are resources like ‘Real IP’ and ‘Visualware’ or ‘Visualroute’. Although for the non-technically minded, the above will be little real help.

Personally I prefer the ‘do not engage’ option with abusive attention seekers. My attitude towards them can be amply illustrated in this little known quote from Douglas Adam’s character Zaphod Beeblebrox; “Hey, I’ll just turn my charisma down a notch, they’ll soon get bored.” Think of it this way; if you weren’t heroic, they wouldn’t be trying to pull you down.

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Martyn K Jones

A writer who first trained as an Electrical Engineer, then fulfilled various roles within the computing industry. First published in 'SuperBike' magazine, 1978 under the pseudonym Harry Matthews. Since then has written and had published a wide variety of work; from PR copy in trade magazines to supernatural short stories and the occasional satirical article. Emigrated to Canada in 2007. Became a Canadian Citizen December 2014. Now branching out as a serious science fiction novelist.

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