It is useful to have the word "Troll" keep the particular meaning it had originally. That is somebody who pretends to hold a position in order to provoke a response. These trolls should obviously be ignored or managed as silently as is possible. If you're struggling for why that is the case then I encourage you to read the second sentence of this comment again. The guy who abused Tom Daley was closer to the classic troll in this way. Recently, the word "troll" has found its way into popular parlance and now just means "person who says something that I don't like". This is particularly popular with the left. I have no idea why we need a special word for "someone who says something I don't agree with, or who is rude or unpleasant", seeing as this word would then apply to ANYONE from somebody's perspective (or at least anyone interesting, anyway).
How best to react to when on the receiving end of online abuse has been rather in the news, courtesy of some high profile recent incidents.
My own view is that ‘don’t feed the trolls’ is far more widely said than is useful, both because ‘trolling’ now means so many different things to different people and also because feeding can be the right approach.
Here’s a round-up of stories that flesh out this point:
- Why you should feed the trolls (sets out my views in more detail)
- Problem with the ‘don’t feed the trolls’ line summarised in one tweet
- Olympic weightlifter takes on the trolls – and prospers
- Evidence from South Korea: ignore the headline, read the details and the comments – as the evidence really points to the opposite conclusion from that in the headline
- Trolling for peace (an attempt to do trolling for good)
- The different ways famous people react to being on the receiving end of online abuse
- What the father of a ‘Twitter troll’ thinks: “Norman Messer, the father of the teen arrested after insulting [diver Tom Daley], said yesterday that Twitter should have shut down his son Reece’s account a long time ago. Mr Messer, 58, said his son suffers from an extreme form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. “It’s not just Daley. He’s abused everyone on Twitter. If you go down his tweets you can see he’s got a problem. There should be some way to close down the accounts of people who are not well, like Reece. I also think there should be an age limit. It’s not right that young people should go on there and say things like this.” He said his son is now full of remorse for his tweets to Daley. “He finds comfort going on Twitter – it gives him a buzz. He’s tried to apologise to Tom, but hasn’t got a reply, which has caused him more anxiety – although I’m not trying to blame Tom at all.”"
If you’ve spotted other good recent pieces on the topic let me know and I’ll add them to this list.