How to stop social media trolls

How to stop social media trolls

Don’t Feed the Trolls is a primer on dealing with hate-filled online trolls published by the Center for Countering Digital Hate. It’s an important piece of work.

Trolling is not a random activity. It’s a planned communication strategy used to attract attention to a cause. Its goal is to generate outrage, spread misinformation and attract followers.

This is the view of the Center for Countering Digital Hate. It has published a primer called Don’t Feed the Trolls which describes troll behaviour. It also proposes counter strategies for dealing with trolls.

“Political trolls are skilled and determined propagandists, [promoting] harmful extremist beliefs, like sectarianism, racism and religious intolerance, using abuse and mockery,” said Imran Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer.

Trolls don’t seek conversation or honest debate. Their goal is not persuasion. They are motivated by hate and seek to spread aberrant views that are designed to be difficult to disprove.

For example, Islamophobic trolls claim that all Muslims are potential extremists. They assert that a core tenet of Islam is to lie to cover up one’s true beliefs and intentions, thus any protestations of innocence are to be distrusted.

Trolls are everywhere

The stereotype of a troll, a young person taking pleasure in sending malicious abuse is atypical. Trolling has become an anarchic, subversive, postmodern subculture, with its origins on websites such as 4Chan, 8chan and Reddit.

Trolling tactics have been adopted by movements seeking to change knowledge, opinions and societal values to help achieve their political goals.

Social media spaces, such as Facebook groups and WhatsApp groups, are potential platforms for radicalisation by extremists according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Trolls on Twitter are just one component, albeit one of the most visible, by which culture is slowly changing.

Dealing with trolls

Trolls exploit the natural human instinct of self-defence. The rationale response to trolls is to engage and debate. That’s a mistake. Trolls play by different rules. Their goal is for their argument to be heard by as many people as possible.

Responding to trolls helps them achieve their goals in three ways. 

  1. It rebroadcasts troll memes to followers

  2. It legitimises a dangerous ideology as valid for discussion

  3. It confirms to the trolls that targets are listening and being affected

Troll counter strategy

“To directly engage with trolls is to hand them a megaphone. The world would be a happier and less hateful place if, instead of giving these voices the attention and audience they crave, we all simply blocked and ignored them,” said Eddie Izzard, stand-up comic, actor, writer and political activist.

Trolls want targets to engage with their content to raise the visibility of their propaganda. The Center for Countering Digital Hate proposes the following counter strategy. 

  1. Don’t engage – engaging amplifies hate. Trolls seek attention and followers, not conversation.

  2. Block trolls – blocking means that you don’t have to see hate.

  3. Don’t post if you are targeted – reacting shows trolls that theirs are working and encourages them to continue.

  4. Don’t let it get to you – log off and switch off.

  5. Record, report and get help – report offensive posts. If you feel threatened screenshot posts and call the police.

Follow this link to download a copy of Don’t Feed the Trolls.

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