Understanding The Troll (Part I)

In the beginning there were Schoolers. Summer vacation, a time to release frustrations, and they’d pile onto the BBS (in the days before the World Wide Web) and attack for attack’s sake. Many were soon caught, as these were dial-up networks and we knew which telephone number matched which account; and we also could do ‘reverse look up’.

The mindset of those boys in those ancient days increased when all one would know is that this call came from that I.P address. Unless the attack was particularly bad, or the site was somewhat private and the I.P. could be locked out without major disruption the deindividualisation of the Internet gave rise to those far older than sixteen with more issues.

The Troll who logs onto a Woman’s Issues site is usually banned after his first post is deleted. Hence Trolls evolved from the newbie who types *&^^* to the one who starts with a few lols, or a bland comment so as to create a persona who will get ‘the benefit of the doubt’.

This benefit of the doubt always works in favour of the Troll, always against the decent poster. The Troll is on the site; be it a message board, be it a comment section under a blog or article, to destroy it; or at least disrupt it to the extent that it loses many of its members. The members are there to participate in discussion.

When a member is attacked by the Troll for no reason and responds, a ha! A Flame War! And both are guilty.

When a member contacts the Moderator; ‘I am very insulted by the post of….’ and the Mod decides to bring in the benefit of the doubt, the member leaves.

Some members may make the ‘Goodbye’ post, which can be attacked and ridiculed. Many just stop logging on. After all, if I am a member of this M.B. for over one year, and have made many good posts, and this character who logged on last week and hasn’t made more than a few one word or one sentence remark is equal to me, than I don’t want to be here.

Once the first ‘victim’ is chased the Troll may create a number of ‘duals’ (if he hasn’t created them already).

The Duals will log on, post, he’ll support the post, and maybe another version of himself will log on to make it seem that ‘everyone’ agrees with the post, and a few members might feel offended and leave. A few might respond, and be attacked by the Duals. Depending on how ‘expendable’ the duals are, some attacks will be more savage than others. The Troll, (in his primary account) will probably ‘defend’ his now banned dual in a kind of by the way ‘freedom of speech’ remark, making the Mod look like a fascist.

More members will leave.

Eventually the Message Board will be dead. And with no one to attack the Troll will cease to log on, moving to another M.B. and doing the same thing again.

There is no successful ‘retaliation’. One can attack the Troll with their own duals, but unless one wants to mix it up Trollkingdom style, why? Log off.

Most people will practice DNFT (Do Not Feed Trolls) and ignore their posts. Often one has a dual to do this so that Member One can make a Post, Troll responds, Member Two ignores the Troll and responds to Member One, Troll posts, Member One responds to Member Two, hoping others will join in and ignore the Troll.

The problem is that ‘benefit of the doubt’ tied into two sides to every story will have average members following the Troll as if he has a point. For a Troll this is a win.

The day a Troll can get two or more average members thinking that there is some kind of ‘debate’ going on and that the Member being attacked is just as guilty or innocent as the Troll means that the Troll has created a virtual crew of deputy Trolls.

Few Mods or Admins recognise the Troll from his first post, most fall for the benefit of the doubt. And Fora which once had 200+ active posters falls to 50 within a few days and 25 at the end of the week, and by the end of the month the ‘newest’ post is 20 days ago.