Following up on my two previous posts about internet trolls, For the Love of Trolls and Trolls Observed, we’ll now have one on managing trolls. In the first post I facetiously talked about how useful they are, and asked them to join us. No bites. In the second I pointed at some studies of the psychology of trolls, concluding that they’re harmful and need to be managed. Still no bites. They’re obviously afraid of us.-) In this post I’ll point at some suggested ways of managing trolls.
First we need to identify them. For personal use we can refer to the Urban Dictionary definition: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument. In those cases, once identified they can be ignored or banned or dealt with in one of the ways listed below. The problem gets worse in the non-personal cases.
In big arenas like Facebook and Twitter, the problem can become overwhelming, particularly since not everyone can identify a troll, much less know how to handle it. There are people who are vulnerable to trolling and bullying, and they need help. Those big companies, and others, are trying to use computers and algorithms to flag potential trolls and assist the human moderators in dealing with them. Sometimes it is enough to let them know that you’re on to them to tone down their behavior. Another approach is to have an algorithm parse a message before it is sent, and ask the sender to reconsider if it looks bad. A useful tactic is to involve other users in identifying and censuring trolls to overcome the tendency to be apathetic about things that don’t seem to involve them. See this BBC article, and this Webroot one.
Here’s a list of things you can try once you’ve identified a troll.
Remember that the troll is the one with the problem, not you. Don’t let him make his problem your problem.
Refuse to take it personally. It’s about them, not you.
Don’t argue with them. That’s their home field advantage.
Don’t respond in kind. It will only make you look as bad as them.
Don’t engage the troll directly. Calmly point out his behavior to others.
If you get sucked in before you realize it, try to make light of it.
If they won’t stop, ignore them. Talk around them. Let their best efforts disappear without a ripple.
If it gets bad, report them to someone who can do something about it. In some cases, banishment is the best option.
So that’s managing trolls. Identify and nullify. We must be doing a great job here on Green Comet, because we don’t have any.-)