Trolls. They’re the internet’s dirty secret and considered a problem by a lot of users who have fallen victim to them. Trolling can be light hearted and playful fun, but it can also be serious and dark and even life threatening in extreme cases. What are they and what can we do about trolls?
I first experienced trolls a the age of about 14 or 15 on a little website called 4chan. The internet as we know it today was fairly new, with the major change to “web 2.0” kicking off in 2004. Web 2.0 for those who aren’t a nerd, is basically when the internet stopped being passive and started being an active medium. Where people were allowed to comment, or create their own content and upload it for anyone to see. YouTube was probably not the first web 2.0 platform, but it is easily one of the most well known. Before 2004, browsing the internet was like reading a book. There was information on it, and you could go and view that information, but you couldn’t interact or be involved with the information at all. The internet was basically like a noticeboard.
2004 rolls around and the internet improves and we start having the ability to interact with the websites, they stop being so much about what’s on the website, but who is using the website. YouTube being the perfect example of this environment has cultivated itself into one of the most important media platforms in the modern world. Often finding views on videos that network television could only ever dream of.
Unfortunately the web 2.0 shift didn’t just allow content creators, and just regular nice people to interact. It also allowed people whose sole goals were to annoy other people to interact too. This is your trolls. Whatever your opinions on trolls and trolling, it is absolutely confirmed that they can be truly intimidating and make the internet a less fun place to be. Heck, the entire reason I write this blog anonymously is because I don’t need trolls in my life right now; but what can we do about them?
Well, that’s the kicker isn’t it. The more we try to eliminate trolls and hit them with prosecutions for their behaviour on the internet, the better at hiding themselves they are going to be. It doesn’t take a genius to find and use a free VPN that doesn’t log your personal data. A VPN being a virtual private network. Think of it like a middle man. You send your middle man out to get what you want, he comes back, and nobody knows you were involved at all.
You can set this, and anonymous emails and contact details up over the internet, for free, within seconds. It’s really not hard to hide yourself as a troll and the more you threaten these people with legal repercussions, the more likely they are to anonymise themselves and become impossible to prosecute.
As with my recent body positivity blog post, my solution is very simple and easy. Stop caring what other people think or say about you online. By trying to change other people and not yourself, you’re forcing those people to become better at what they do, and the better they become at doing it, the more intense their trolling is likely to become. Feeding the trolls only makes them hungrier. So don’t feed them, I know that seems obvious and I know you think you’re standing up for your human rights and all that, but trolls don’t care. They will attack you because you react to it or because they just don’t like you. The entire point is to illicit emotional responses from their victims and that’s exactly what they’re doing.
Regarding “dox” and private information; be better with it. Police your own presence on the internet and nobody else’s, because its the only presence you actually have control over. Delete old profiles, make sure you never use similar usernames across websites, alternate email addresses. Don’t leave the crumbs behind for someone to piece together and make a full picture of who you are. Be smart with your internet presence, and take control of your emotions back from the trolls. That’s how you beat them.
This post was mostly a kind of rant, but also I think important. I’ve been “victim” and I use that word lightly, to trolls and dox attacks. I’ve even had my personal internet connection be taken down via DDoS attacks. Its happened very often in some of the communities I frequent. It’s caused me to be more cautious and careful with my personal information and my internet privacy. It’s a really important lesson that internet users of the modern age should really be practising. I just kind of hope people learn t his the easy way instead of the hard way.
Trolls will always exist, and they will always be a problem for internet users. We can’t control other people, but we can control ourselves, and the information we put out there.