Avoidance Can’t Be the Solution: A Guide to Dealing with Internet Trolls
Interestingly, the word ‘troll’ comes from the Old Norse word ‘troll’ meaning giant or demon. The word also finds mention in Scandinavian fairy tales where they are denoted as antisocial, quarrelsome and slow-witted creatures which make life difficult for travellers.
“Life difficult for travellers”, when we speak of the Internet troll, the meaning holds true for most of us.
The first time I experienced a troll online, I accept I was very scared. The idea of someone sending you rape threats even if in the form of a tweet, can never be pleasing. And to some extent I agree, they do shut you up. Because as much as you believe in your ideologies, you also believe in being mentally sound.
Read other stories in #TryTrollHer here
A couple of days back I was at a TEDx event speaking to a bunch of university students and in the meet & greet session, many had a common question for me.
‘How do we present our views about social change or even politics without being trolled’
To imagine that those who are yet to experience the internet troll, have already gone in a silent mode to avoid interaction, saddened me a lot. And it also made me realise that the scope of the internet troll has today become far-reaching.
In fact, in UK the lawmakers have taken a very serious cognisance of prevalent online trolling. They have now created laws to book people for trolling activities they commit online.
To quote a BBC report on above UK law: Examples of potentially criminal behaviour include the practice of “doxxing”, publishing someone else’s personal information such as a home address or bank details, and using a derogatory hashtag to encourage more widespread harassment of your victim, or “virtual mobbing”.
While the legal systems across the world are battling with potential challenge of framing the exact laws to curb online trolling, the onus is on us to define behaviour that is acceptable in our interactive space.
While most people feel that avoiding or blocking is the only possible solution to solve this menace, I do hold counter views on the subject.
Yes on a personal (or macro) level you can follow an Engage-Engage-Block theory as a way to navigate the minefield of trolls online. When we approach trolling at a larger level we need conversations, movements and even pledges to not associate with organisations or communities who take to trolling as clear way of presenting their views online. Here avoidance or shutting our eye to the shameful activities cannot be the solution.
And I am not alone in this way of thinking. A few years back the Zero Trollerance campaign by activist group The Peng Collective used Twitter bots to automatically target people whose tweets appeared to be abusive.
These users were given a somewhat tongue-in-cheek offer to take part in a “self-help programme” to end their trolling. They used this pun intended trolling to counter the activities.
The movement stemmed from a simple thought – those who indulge in bullying or trolling must be made to face consequences of their actions. A simple act of Karma is what I like! Always.
As I found myself, facing these two young girls asking me again in their innocent voice ‘What about trolling, ma’am’, I was transpired back to reality. I looked at them again and replied,
‘We brave them just as we brave a million things to do what we feel is right’.
Richa Singh is a TEDx Speaker and the founder of BlogChatter.