The "cult" of trolls and how to deal with them


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The only effective way to deal with trolls is to ignore them. All of this controversy is just adding fuel to the fire since the reason these guys make those remarks is to get people angry in the first place. That’s what trolls do. Make people angry because it’s funny. As long as someone takes the bait they’re going to continue doing it.

I feel sorry for people who can’t handle being trolled, because there’s not much you can do about it online except remind yourself that the person doing it is just trying to be an asshole and doesn’t really mean it.

Moderation helps, and is necessary once a community grows beyond a certain size, but you can’t moderate the entire internet. If you have a low tolerance for trolls, I suggest hanging out in areas of the internet that are more heavily moderated and actively avoid the less moderated ones. This means disabling Youtube comments for instance, and don’t give away your email address unless you’re willing to deactivate it at the drop of a hat. The other problem is that trolls are pretty good at hiding, and can take many forms. Concern trolls for instance are very good at infiltrating well moderated communities, and can be just as destructive as misogynistic assholes, especially since they’re harder to filter out.


How is it only identity theft when it involves AT&T customers, but it’s not when he released her social security numbers?

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I have managed to attract my own dedicated troll through my activity on the web, and though it’s not to the extent some people experience, I can testify that it’s made my life worse. You just begin wondering why a human being would DO this sort of thing - months of activity, day after day of harassment. To what end? What do they get out of it?

And I’m one of the lucky ones - my troll isn’t particularly skillful at anything but getting around blocks and bans. He caused some drama among those I communicated with readily by spreading lies, but eventually it became obvious what was going on and the communities I was part of built up their own little defense structures against him. His insults are pitiful, and only posted in public forums that talk about my project - thankfully he doesn’t see the need to spam my e-mail or try to infiltrate my Facebook or anything.

But the worst feeling is the inescapable knowledge that you simply can’t do anything about it. You can’t stop them. You can’t ignore them, because if you do they don’t just effect you but also things you are trying to accomplish.

The previous commenter mentions moderation, but against a persistent troll moderation is nothing. I own one of the forums he frequents, and there’s simply nothing you can do, no real action you can take against a person dedicated to making your life miserable and with far more free time to do it than you.

Ignoring them, banning them, none of it works, especially since many dedicated trolls will intentionally target not just you but the people who interact with you and don’t know better. You end up living your life in fear that the person you’re talking to online is really just the same old troll again, in disguise, waiting for an opportunity to ruin things.

It is incredibly damaging to both a persons sense of control and their ability to trust others. It sucks like hell.

And again, I want to stress - I’m one of the lucky ones.


until they figure out a way to make it so that no one on the internet is anonymous there will be trolls, anonymity is what allows people to be so bold.

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Some more info on Weev, before some dipshit comes in here to defend him on free-speech grounds or something. I posted this to Hacker News a while back, and I want to get it in the first few posts, so apologies if some of it is redundant with the article.

First, go read this. (It’s mostly fictional, I believe, but the intent is pretty clear.)

djfooroach/Memphis Two is Weev, as per page five of this New York Times article. An excerpt:

Over a candlelit dinner of tuna sashimi, Weev asked if I would
attribute his comments to Memphis Two, the handle he used to troll
Kathy Sierra, a blogger. Inspired by her touchy response to online
commenters, Weev said he “dropped docs” on Sierra, posting a
fabricated narrative of her career alongside her real Social Security
number and address. This was part of a larger trolling campaign
against Sierra, one that culminated in death threats. Weev says he has
access to hundreds of thousands of Social Security numbers. About a
month later, he sent me mine.

In 2007, Kathy Sierra was the target of an avalanche of death and rape threats that drove her out of tech and public life entirely. Nobody seems to be quite certain why, except that it may have had to do with a blog post defending people’s right to delete comments from their own blogs. Sierra said, “I have cancelled all speaking engagements. I am afraid to leave my yard, I will never feel the same. I will never be the same.” Weev claims credit for this. He’s proud of it.

There’s plenty more out there, if you care to trace through Weev’s many aliases. He was never shy about how much he loved brutalizing people. “I hack, I ruin, I make piles of money,” he boasted. “I make people afraid for their lives.” --The New York Times again.

If you want to argue, as Sierra herself has, that Weev should be in prison but not for this particular charge, then I can respect that. The last few times he came up, we had commenters actually saying he’d done nothing wrong, and that’s untrue.


No one is truly anonymous on the internet. It should be pretty easy to track anyone down.It’s about determining applicable laws to stop the dangerous actions.

Blockquote[quote=“IMB, post:7, topic:9607, full:true”]
No one is truly anonymous on the internet. It should be pretty easy to track anyone down.I’s about determining applicable laws to stop the dangerous actions.

Yes, this. It shouldn’t be too difficult to produce criminal harassment laws that address the reality of online harassment without threatening free speech.

It’s not about anonymity, except tangentially. I know the name, address, etc. of the troll that’s hounding me.

It’s distance. It’s lack of repercussions. It’s not that he’s anonymous, it’s that I am powerless to do anything about it, and I suspect it’s the same in many of these situations. Anonymity certainly helps more people accomplish this “safe area to strike from” more effectively, but it’s not the only way the internet enables it.


It sounded like every level of law enforcement told her it was out of their hands. I don’t understand that. Isn’t a death threat a criminal act?


I’m not trying to pick on you here, but harassment and assault are illegal for a reason. It is perfectly sensible for someone to fear being raped or murdered, or their reputation or profession damaged or destroyed. Because those things really happen.

Our tolerance for lesser trolling makes more severe trolling possible.

I’m not claiming to have any answers on what to do, other than don’t be a jerk and don’t support people being jerks.


She wasn’t angered by what he did, it sounds like she was terrified. She received threats. She had her identity stolen. It wasn’t as if she simply couldn’t handle someone yanking her chain. This was much more sinister, according to the article.


I don’t think you grasp what kind of “trolling” we’re talking about here.

The way to deal with people who call you names is to ignore them. The way to deal with criminal harassment, death/rape threats, and identity theft is to put them in prison.


My uninformed opinion: this is jurisdictionally and otherwise confusing, law enforcement has some discretion on what they spend their time investigating, and they chose not to go after this because they were confused/unsure how to proceed/not convinced they could be successful.

I have a similar reaction to weev as expressed in the article: I think the prosecution for the AT&T disclosure was bad precedent and based on a poorly-constructed law, but I don’t feel sorry for weev himself at all. Same with the doxing of Reddit’s violentacrez: I don’t condone doxing in general, but my gut reaction is that the guy reaped the whirlwind.


So, since this is the first I’m hearing about this, what inspired such hatred that she became a target? Or was she chosen randomly?

I was a bit startled by a report from someone that claimed to be a friend of Weev that stated he was so charming in real life.

I met him once (many years ago) in Los Angeles at a party - and watched him troll the room in real life, harassing people and trying to buy various drugs (it was not that type of crowd, the hardest intoxicants in the room were a bottle of vodka and a joint) before finally being expelled - I don’t think anyone that treats other human beings like he did to the woman he stalked and harassed can be considered anything less than a sociopath.


I’ve known plenty of people who are willing to troll face to face. Some people like to be disagreeable not because they actually have a different opinion but because they enjoy seeing other people get upset. Anonymity certainly helps create more trolls in that some don’t want to see that anger directed at them in person but others are quite fine with it and probably prefer the personal touch. And the middle ground, such as message boards that use Facebook IDs, are still full of trolls despite the name and photo of the trolls (most of them anyway) being plainly visible.


Here’s the challenge - we want free speech on the internet, but we don’t want trolls taking advantage of that to hurt others.

The way I see it law enforcement is absolutely the wrong way to deal with these trolls. These people are the griefers of the internet, they make it suck for some people. Our response should be to form gank squads and fight back.

There should be an area on reddit or 4chan where people can go to post about the abuse that is happening. Then the masses perusing that area can troll them back in exactly the same way, doxing, posting fake ads in their name, calling 911 as them, etc.

I think the threat of retribution will ultimately be far more effective at preventing this than any other means.

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Nobody can protect you from harm unless they are physically present with you all the time.

You are the only person with you all the time.

So, she had two things making her a juicy target: a very popular and visible tech blog, and a female body. The proximate cause seemed to be that she expressed support for the right of blog/forum owners to moderate comments.

I wasn’t familiar with this story before either; the above is just what I picked up from the Verge article.