What’s behind trolling?

Do you know about ‘trolls’? They’re the rather annoying individuals who anonymously post insults, threats and provocations on online forums, Facebook pages and newspaper comments sections. The BBC has recently published an excellent magazine article on the growing phenomenon, looking at the psychology behind it.

“Online people feel anonymous and disinhibited,” says Professor Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit at Nottingham Trent University. “They lower their emotional guard and in the heat of the moment may troll either reactively or proactively.”

The article also points out that, thanks to a recent surge in trolling behaviour, there’s been increasing pressure on governments and private organisations to put restrictions on – or even entirely abolish – online anonymity. However, Jeff Jarvis, author of Public Parts, has a far less draconion suggestion. “The answer is for newspaper websites and online forums to employ sufficient moderators to prevent the comments spiralling into petty vendettas.”

Well, that’s one solution – but there are plenty of others too. Shamelessly relating back to an article I first wrote over two years ago, here are ten top ways to keep the trolls at bay. Well, nine top ones and a rubbish voice censor.

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Keeping the Trolls at Bay


If you have ever commented on a blog post, web news article or Facebook group, you will probably have come into contact with trolls. They are the thoroughly irksome, pedantic and occasionally downright unsavoury individuals who post irrelevant, inflammatory and/or abusive remarks in message boards, often with the sole intent of disrupting on-topic conversation or undermining other forum users.

For the most part, trolls are accepted as just one of those irritations that happen online – like receiving those persistent emails about enlarging your penis, or unwittingly helping to prolong Rick Astley’s career – but for us marketing types trolls are more than just an annoyance. The truth is that these cyber-tosspots cost advertising agencies in the UK alone millions of pounds every year. Continue reading