Trolling – It’s not always what you think
No-one who has accessed any form of online media can have failed to notice the reports of abuse and threats suffered by Stella Creasy and Caroline Criado-Perez in the past week. This has been labelled ‘trolling’. I personally think this is a misnomer, and that there should be a clear definitions of the different types of trolling; it is all to easy for the casual commenter to disregard the very serious, usually misogynistic, hate mail and threats online bloggers/tweeters/discussion group members (etc.) suffer.
So here are my personal definitions:
A person who joins groups or discussion which oppose their way of thinking, in order to confront and provoke discussion and occasionally animosity. They generally seek not only to debate but to incite anger and emotion.
Similar to a political troll. A person who deliberately tries to anger or incite an emotional reaction in people, usually by expressing extreme opinions which they don’t actually hold. Not necessarily to do with politics.
Pretty self-explanatory; a person who makes insulting, derogatory, personal comments about someone online. This can occasionally tip over into the next definition of…
A person who threatens, intimidates and harasses people online. This may involve posting of personal details with the intent to incite hate crime towards an individual, repeated intimidating comments towards an individual which constitute sustained illegal harassment, incitement of others to harass an individual, threats of violence and so on.
The group known as ‘Anonymous’ (actually a collective of people with similar ideals with regard to method of protest but not an organised political movement as such; there is no central campaign headquarters and people/sub-groups act independently) is frequently stated to be a group of trollers. They do not break the law nor do they threaten so would be classified under the first three definitions, never the fourth.
Edit: I have been talking with a friend, credited as “Anon”, who has experience in the trolling arena and has two further definitions worthy of consideration, and in their words:
“Trolls decide on a raid and descend on mass.
We also look for online polls (such as the times 100) some of these polls don’t register your IP and we can use scripts to vote over and over again. We voted in Kim Jong Un as the times top personality last year. Sometimes (when we can be arsed) we’ll arrange the runners up to spell something. We also decide sometimes that a celeb has died and then alter the internet to reflect their ‘death’ , this worked particularly well with Jon Bon Jovi , who actually had to make a statement saying that he was alive and kicking. I do it to fuck with society (a society that cares more about whether a celeb is alive or not , than say Palestine etc) many do it just for the Lulz. So I guess you could add ‘Troll raids’ to your categories…
RIP trolls too. These are considered the lowest of the low (even by other trolls) they are sadists that attack public RIP pages and have been known to cause suicides before.”
End of Edit.
Note the “criminal troll” definition. This shouldn’t really be called trolling, in my opinion, but unfortunately the media has reported such commenters as such in a widespread and all-encompassing manner, so it has entered the vernacular and become recognised as a form of trolling. The term ‘trolling’ when applied to such incitement to hate speech and action is belittling, and belies the seriousness of the situation.
Feminists and outspoken women online are used to being crime-trolled, to receiving threats. Online misogyny is rife, and those who seek to victim-blame are also rife. It is a classic silencing technique, both to troll women and to threaten and intimidate them.
Responses to the criminal acts that many, many women have been on the receiving end of tend towards stating “block the troll” or “don’t rise to the bait” or “ignore them”. Really? This is the way women are advised to react to sustained, histrionic, detailed threats and persistent, constant online abuse? To simply accept and block? Because of course, such trollers won’t know how to set up alternative accounts or encourage others to harass.
The purpose of such troll-criminals is to silence and intimidate women to getting off-line. Feminism for some reason seems to particular provoke such people; one can only assume they are so fearful of equality that they feel they must attack and threaten to silence the women speaking up. They rarely attack male commenters in the same way; only the female commenters. Only women with opinions.
Rape threats are always a tool of silencers. Before online activity, women would receive such threats through the post or to their particular organisations. We can see how rape and sexual abuse is used in all forms of conflict, so it’s no surprise it gets used online. Telling women to ‘block’ such threats is minimising the seriousness of such threats. It is a symptom of misogyny and rape culture that such threats are not taken seriously and recognised as representative of the intrinsic sexism of society. All society. There is not one culture that I can think of where women have not faced threats for speaking up.
Voicing an opinion should not lead to being victimised by troll-criminals. People who are targeted by troll-criminals should not be told to ‘block’ them or to get over it or that they are taking it all too seriously. This is serious. It should be treated as such.
I’m not going to be silenced.