Post with Caution; Trolls are on the Rise

Sitting in a badly-lit room, the curtains drawn and armed with spiteful, negative jabs, everybody’s favorite member of the “comments” section, the troll, rears it’s ugly head. When I hear the phrase “Internet troll,” that’s the kind of image that comes to my mind; some poor sad sack of a human being with nothing better to do than ruffle a few feathers.

Some of the most common places to find these trolls are on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Other sites that allow you to share content, such as Youtube, can be rampant with users trolling the comment section. It’s amazing how quickly the comment sections can turn into an argument between a few people. If you have never experienced this, go to a popular Youtube video and start reading the comment section.

It has become more and more common over the last several years. Blog posts and forums are also full of trolling. When like-minded people join together in a conversation on a forum, trolls are usually not too far behind. It’s easy to troll because the Internet allows a powerful tool that real life bullies don’t have: anonymity. Most of the time they can easily hide behind their computer screens without too much face-to-face confrontation.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user Matt Joyce

New Zealand recently passed a law that makes it illegal to troll on the Internet. The article goes on to state that, “the bill passed the New Zealand parliament with an overwhelming 116 to 5 majority.”

It can be difficult to pin down trolls and try to get a lawsuit out of them. Freedom of speech is a powerful weapon and most of the time you can’t make a legal case out of someone annoying you online. There are, however, cases in which a person can take legal actions against a troll. A common attack online for trolls is doxxing. This is the gathering and publishing of publicly available information online. Doxxing is sometimes used with threats and demands and this can be considered extortion.

Recently, a different side of trolling has actually been taken up by governments and corporations. A popular tactic used by some governments is to enlist trolls on anti-government and controversial websites. The goal here is to infuriate the readers away from the main issue of the forum or the article that was written. The trolls get to work to distract people and take them off-topic.

Canada’s CTV News aired a short report about how their government was hiring trolls. Secret agents were hired to monitor social media sites and to keep track of conversations. The government’s defense was that they were just “weighing in and correcting” false information that had been posted online.

Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.com

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