Since the media uproar about the whole ‘Twitter abuse scandal’ (which I wont validate with an explanation as this is not my point here!), the term ‘troll’ has been used incessantly.
In fact, just this morning, BBC Breakfast asked the question on their Facebook page: “What do you think needs to be done to tackle Twitter trolls? At 0720 we’ll speak to a senior police officer about threats and abuse on the social network.”
Now, I have been ‘social networking’ on internet sites for about 20 years (Yahoo! Chat anyone?) and I am fed up with seeing ‘troll’ used in this way.
An entry on the ever amusing Urban Dictionary sums up how normal internet users view a troll:
One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.
A person who, on a message forum of some type, attacks and flames other members of the forum for any of a number of reasons such as rank, previous disagreements, sex, status, ect.
A troll usually flames threads without staying on topic, unlike a “Flamer” who flames a thread because he/she disagrees with the content of the thread.
A member of an internet forum who continually harangues and harasses others. Someone with nothing worthwhile to add to a certain conversation, but rather continually threadjacks or changes the subject, as well as thinks every member of the forum is talking about them and only them. Trolls often go by multiple names to circumvent getting banned.
For example, on our local newspaper website, there have been a number of stories over the years about the campaign to save our local cinema. There is a troll on the site currently calling himself ‘Cornbeefur’ that flames on almost every story, but especially anything to do with the cinema campaign, using the same language all the time, mentioning people dressed as ‘darleks’ (sic) etc because he KNOWS that it is going to get a rise out of all the people that have been passionately supporting a campaign that he doesn’t consider worthwhile.
That is a troll, and I have to admit, I have trolled in the past. I would be surprised if the majority of people that spend a long time on the internet haven’t trolled at some stage. Have you never been contrary just to annoy someone whose views you don’t agree with? (especially those that you don’t know, so don’t necessarily care about their feelings).
So, now that there have been high-profile online abuse cases (forget all the internet abuse that has come before that, they weren’t marginally famous feminists, and therefore unimportant), the media are branding these people trolls. They are not trolls, they are online abusers.
Although trolls aren’t fluffy, they are rather amusing if you can get out of your own arse long enough to see them for what they really are. Threatening and abusive people are not really funny (although often blockable) they are exactly what they are.
Don’t take away our trolls BBC and other media. Learn what social media is, accept what a troll really is, and report criminal harassment and abuse for what it is instead of making the internet (and especially Twitter) out to be some out of control crime-fest to those who don’t use it and have never intended to!
PS – this post is not intended as trolling.