Thursday, 14 March 2013

Dealing With Trolls

If you partake in any kind of online writing, forum posting or using twitter then you will have come across some idiots who like to insult or pick fault for no reason. I don't just mean correcting your article or disagreeing with your point, I mean they launch a sustained attack on you personally. This has become known as trolling, often in debates people will provoke arguments or pick fault to gain further reaction.

Leo Traynor wrote a remarkable article about this subject that brings to life the issue of trolls online, you can read the full article here. What was most shocking about his encounter was the person at the end of the computer giving him and his family such abuse, a 17 year old friends son. This showcases the unfortunate side of the internet, often abuse and threats come in the form of a neatly written box of words. There is no face and your mind can wonder imagining all kinds of horrible scenarios about the offender. But in reality the majority of these trolls are bored and silly idiots who sit behind their computer believing this gives them anonymity. Leo went to a large amount of effort to uncover his troll but you will find troll outing is something people will help you with as was the case this week.

I can't say I often enjoy reading the news but this story was simply the best story I had read in a long time. English Boxer Curtis Woodhouse lost a title fight last weekend, an occasion that is difficult to manage for any boxer. On top of this he was recieving a number of messages from a troll who had a sustained campaign of hate directed at him. Instead of ignoring, blocking or simply tweeting back, Curtis decided to get his twitter followers to help him find the guys address. Offering £1,000 reward for an address he got this within minutes and proceeded to drive to the street he had been given. When he arrived he tweeted a picture which promted the terrified troll to apologise immediately and beg forgiveness. Curtis had solved the problem once and for all. They appeared in a rather uneasy interview on ITV which gave the troll a platform to apologise and warn others about following the same path. Curtis has since become a folk hero and many celebrities have shown their appreciation for his efforts, of course being a celebrity is deemed to be a vocation that trolling is simply something you have to live with. Curtis showed the world that you don't need to be a victim of this and called out his abuser to great affect. Of course being a Boxer he wasn't likely to find someone at the other end that frightened him, but it is an example of how turning the table of trolls often gets them to reasses their activities online. The other point being that there was never a threat of physical violence, Curtis wasn't saying he was going round to batter the guy, being a professional boxer he knows that he cannot use his skills in this way without losing his licence, he simply wanted to confront the man who had so much abuse to direct at him and ask him to stop.

The internet needs to remain an unregulated free platform for speech and opinions, but there is also something that says humans should have a certain level of decency. So if you find yourself a victim of a troll, try finding out who they are and call their bluff.

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