Today I would like to talk to you about cyber trolls. Contrary to their old-fashioned namesakes they hold very little professional self-esteem. Ah, the days of the good old-fashioned troll. Any self-respecting traditional troll would leave their calling card, leaving their victims not a shadow of a doubt who they were dealing with. Getting rid of traditional trolls was usually a pretty straightforward endeavour, leaving the right items required to send the troll off and leaving you a happy camper.
For starters one could try various combinations of much sought after items, such as special old cheddar, a pint of stale lager and a smelly old sock. Some creatures would require a more elaborate bribe, depending on their preferences. This would often lead to a prolongued campaign of trial-and-error, finding various liquids splashed across the walls in the early morning and rotten food stashed away at highly inconvenient places. But at least sooner or later you would either hit the right combination or the troll got bored, and peace was restored to your dwellings again.
However in the digital world leaving a pint of stale lager and some moldy bread with last weeks’ leftover cod won’t do any good (unless you happen to have the odd stray traditional troll enjoying in pouring it over your laptop while you sleep). Cybertrolls don’t care for sour skimmed milk, stale lager or moldy food. Which makes hunting and trapping them some sort of an adventure into uncharted territory. However one method is always foolproof, and that is tickling the creature’s ego. As much as the good old straigtforward traditional trolls are easily appeased (at least for the time being) by sticking a verbal feather up their ass (like praising their uncanny ability to push out nails just far enough for them to fall out of the wall just when you slam the door behind you, sending that precious pic of grandma crashing to the tile floor), the cyber variety purrs with pleasure when its big ego is tickled. It is for that reason it often has some Most Loyal Core members who put up the proverbial feather now and then, alluding to the troll’s omnipotence, wit and verbal bravery.
By lack of sufficient Core members the troll will create virtual identities to pat its own back, up to the point of having elaborate discussions with itself, congratulating on the troll’s own verbal skills, which are always perceived as outstanding and beyond any mere mortals’ capacities. This feature also presents the cyber troll hunter with a practical problem: the usual advice is to cut off the troll’s food supply, as in ‘just ignore’ (and, if possible, block), which doesn’t work as many cyber trolls have a tendency to spread like a fungus, often creating more than a dozen online identities and platforms, each lined up and ready to take over when one of their vehicles of venom fails. All this behaviour is multiplied in its intensity once the troll harbours a deep rooted belief to be in sole possession of The Only Truth, turning its antics into a fanaticism that would make even the most hard core religious zealots blush.
With any luck sooner or later the creature becomes overzealous and starts slipping up, and then the fun begins, as the following story illustrates.
Once upon a time one particular troll thought it had a brilliant idea (as usual grossly overestimating its own foresight and intellectual capacities), creating a page on a social network which was guaranteed to lure a large amount of supporters, thinking they were approving an initiative to help a certain furry creature in a dire situation. A myriad of pages dedicated to address animal cruelty can be found on the internet and especially on social networking sites, and lo and behold, within days of its creation the number of endorsements had passed several hundreds, making the little troll jump with joy, no doubt. Then the troll (still under the impression it had a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel) craftily changed the name of the page into its own adagium, took off any references to the previous case and put on the same old routine that had already evaporated from the online world many times before, after thousands took offense and notified online authorities. Of course people started taking notice when they found not only the page name but also the content had changed, which, odd enough, was gladly admitted by the troll, probably taking great pride in its little scam (a small reminder of the past when trolls not only took pride of their work but made sure you knew who they were, contrary to the modern variety which goes at great lengths to prevent being found out). Alas the troll made on BIG mistake. True to form for the social networking site this happened on, the troll believed people could not possibly know each other outside that site, neither could the poor thing fathom that people actually did know those who were on that site very well enough to have serious doubts about their presence there, even if they were only friends in the virtual world. In fact, it can be safely assumed that part of the troll’s ploy was to turn people against one another, accusing each other of ‘running over to the other side’, while the troll relished in the online onslaught that it was convinced would ensue. After all, according to the troll’s view on things, the people on that site were incapable of thinking for themselves. The little troll actually believed people would not check, finding friends of theirs approving the troll’s handiwork, and that people would actually do some research. As it soon turned out, none of the people ‘approving’ the troll’s site, were aware the thing had changed and immediately withdrew their support on discovery of the fraud, aghast that their name had been even linked to that particular site.
But the biggest mistake of all was that the poor little creature, no doubt whallopping in its own delight of fooling over 700 people into approving its handiwork, overlooked a rather significant insignificant detail. One of the people ‘approving’ the troll’s site, was a person who sure as hell would never ever do so, for the simple reason that this person was on the total opposite end of the spectrum regarding this particular troll’s bone of contention. The presence of that one person ‘approving’ of that site was enough to expose the troll’s ploy, and as could be expected, the poor little bugger’s support dwindled at high speed and within 1 day the troll’s handiwork was sent to the cyberspace junkyard, where it belonged.
So what to do about it? As the troll is often contradicting itself, confronting it with those contradictions after a well placed compliment is good way to start the poor creature off. Some trolls will try and prevent this stage by just repeating the same statements over and over and over again, like a broken record. If presented with a reasonable counter-argument, the troll will start shrieking about foul play or intellectual incapacity to understand The Only Truth, then throw a verbal tantrum insulting you in every possible way (meanwhile frantically nudging Core members and/or its own virtual other selves into action for support) and if all else fails resorts to ‘hahahaaaahaaahaaa’, ‘LOL’ and other interjections suggesting the troll is having a blast when in reality the poor thing is at an utter loss for words.
Unfortunately, this all is usually not enough to get rid of this creature. After all, it will shriek and blow some fuses, then rearrange, regroup, revitalize the odd online personality and start all over again like a loop in a really badly edited movie, with help of its own viral, virtual mini-me’s.
So what is left to do but serving the little troll a cookie of its own dough?