It has been almost a year since I first published my investigation into cyber trolling and I’ve decided that the term “trolling” has become a wholly useless word. Or at least in the context of the discussion that has taken place over the past year.

Not all trolls are created equal.

During this time I have witnessed people who have used trolling and anonymity (although the two are not mutually exclusive) to deliberately undermine politics, culture and big issues in a really constructive, often amusing and witty way be lumped in with a group of people who have used the internet to threaten, harass, vilify and intimidate others.

These people – who have ruined families and destroyed lives - are not trolls, they’re cyber bullies.

I recognize that when I began investigating this online community of trouble makers, I too referred to people who took pleasure in other people’s pain as trolls.

But the direction this debate has taken has some worrying consequences if it continues in this vein. The difference between trolling and cyber bullying is vast.

Conflating trolls with cyber bullies is like comparing Charlie Chaplin who famously parodied Hitler in order to undermine the Third Reich and make Hitler and those who followed him look stupid – to an anti-semite.

I worry that by deliberately conflating trolls and bullies we’re coming to a point where people with a valid argument to make, who use the latest technologies to undermine the government,  the media, and the institutions of society, are being silenced because their alleged offenses are considered as horrific as the awful, terrible people that put Charlotte Dawson in hospital.

Because of the potential for embarrassment these trolls pose for groups, individuals, companies and institutions, these same groups are using the debate to try and call for the need or right to anonymity be conflated entirely with trolling.

Why for example, is it necessary that we know the identity of the person who runs the @abcnewsintern Twitter account? Would the points that he or she make about the company and about the state of the Australian news media be any less credible were he not anonymous?

Let’s do away with the term “troll” and call the people who have made the front page of newspapers, led current affairs programs and dominated radio discussion, what they are – bullies.

They’re bullies who have knowingly or unknowingly have broken at least one federal law by using a carrier service to harass, intimidate and threaten people online. There are a more than a handful of state laws they could have violated as well.

Telling someone to kill themselves isn’t trolling.

Trolling is an art. It requires some finesse. (Though obviously some trolls are more accomplished than others).

Telling someone that their father died of shame, or to burn in a gas chamber or to kill themselves is as lazy as it is dangerous and the people who say these things shouldn’t be given the same title as people who are using insight, wit and parody to deliberately disrupt debate, conventions and institutions within society that in their eyes need a good shake up.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with challenging accepted norms. There is nothing wrong with demanding changes to law, or policy. There is nothing wrong with protest.

But so long as we continue to associate people who choose to get their message out via the internet instead of chaining themselves to trees or holding placards with bullies who intentionally set out to intimidate and threaten people, we’re telling them – and we’re telling society – that they’re not just a public menace but criminals.

I won’t see debate and protest silenced online. Whether it is anonymous or not, whether it is annoying or not, whether it is challenging or not is so very much not the point.

Bullies are not trolls. They’re thugs.

I’m taking back the word as it has no place in this debate.

Trolling is dead.

Long live the trolls.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEST.

Most commented

81 comments

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    • subotic says:

      09:29am | 17/10/12

      Joe = 0
      Weev = The entire internet

      What a fantastic “insight” into life that young man had.

      Troll gold.

    • Me says:

      10:24am | 17/10/12

      Didn’t Weev start the GNAA up as well?

      Some of their IRC flooding scripts were gold. In the dark ages of the Internet Weev and friends proved somewhat of a trolling renaissance.

    • Peter says:

      10:36am | 17/10/12

      The difference between trolling a cyber bullying is vast.

      Sub-editor alert

    • Pedro says:

      11:03am | 17/10/12

      WTF does cyber mean anyway.
      If Alan Jones is calling people who don’t like his bile cyber-bullies, then it must be the wrong term. AJ aint exactly the hippest person in the room.

    • Bob says:

      11:11am | 17/10/12

      Trolling is a art form.

    • David Attenborough says:

      11:29am | 17/10/12

      There many different troll species. For example be aware of the most aggressive species the baby boomer troll. And try not to be annoyed by the young liberal troll. OH and lets not forget the most hideous of species the green troll.

    • acotrel says:

      11:43am | 17/10/12

      @Bob
      ‘Trolling is a art form. ‘

      I feel better now !

      - Tony Abbott is an artist too ! A misogynartist ? - No, - a bullshit artist !

    • subotic says:

      11:45am | 17/10/12

      The dwarf, Hispanic, lesbian feminazi amputee troll with one eye and gingivitis?

    • John says:

      09:39am | 17/10/12

      Protesting and having an alternative view to the mass herd is now considered trolling, which now considered bullying which is now illegal. What is this a communist fascist state? with these cold blooded commissar’s roaming around looking for so called trolls? so they can satisfy their sadistic desires of exterminating anyone that doesn’t fit into their Commie/Marxist world view. So I guess Jesus was a troll also. Martin Luther-king was also a troll to Catholic church. Gandhi was troll to the British. Richard the Lion Heart was the trolling Saladin!
      Bush was trolling Osama Bin Laden and the American People.

    • Phil S says:

      10:33am | 17/10/12

      Wow…way to rage about things not relevant to this article. Trolling on the internet has ALWAYS been considered an art (see http://memebase.cheezburger.com/artoftrolling ) and has been distinct from bullying. It is only the main stream media who have got it wrong (when have they ever got it right in regards to the internet?).

      I congratulate Claire on getting it right finally. On the other hand, I think anyone who uses the word ‘commie’ is either trolling, or a complete nutcase.

    • John says:

      11:59am | 17/10/12

      The communists love to stifle freedom of expression and terrorize people for speaking out against their giant national gulag camp.
      Those who attack people for expressing their views are fascist communists.

    • Tbird says:

      01:59pm | 17/10/12

      I dont think there is many fascist communists around. Two ideologies that are completely the opposite to each other. Remember a small war called WW2 . Just saying…..

    • John says:

      02:25pm | 17/10/12

      Fascism is one party state. Communists were one party state, therefor they are fascists. I know that communists called hitler a fascist, but communists were too deluded to see they too were also fascists. It’s like the NATO and the US military who bomb, massacre and invade people, they call everyone else a terrorist, when they are even worse terrorists. We like in sick world, with heaps of mentally deluded hypocritical personality’s, the communists were off the charts.

    • Matt says:

      09:40am | 17/10/12

      OMG THANKYOU.. This has been shitting me ever since the Dawson saga..  They’re not the same, yet the media loves the catchphrases, and Bully doesn’t pack the punch of Troll..

    • Ohcomeon says:

      09:43am | 17/10/12

      Strongly disagree. They are not bullies. They have no way of making trouble for you in the real world, and if they do, there are many laws to protect you.

      You can simply unfriend, block, have banned, complain to mods or actually stand up for yourself. Bullies are people that get in your face and that you must acquiesce to due to their physical strength or workplace power. Someone online has none of this power. To call someone who calls you a bad name on the internet a bully just makes you look pathetic.

      Even though its crass, there is nothing wrong whatsoever with telling someone to go kill themselves. To even begin to legislate against it takes us down a very slippery slope with free speech.

    • Billie says:

      10:20am | 17/10/12

      Have you heard of a young lady named Amanda Todd?

    • John says:

      10:21am | 17/10/12

      I suspect they are just looking every little minute thing to implement such draconian communist laws. Racism, Bullying. These two then can be twisted to install terror into the population not to speak out against certain groups and government policy’s. If you look at western society, it’s now illegal to have negative views on women, multiculturalism, homosexuality, minority’s, society it’s self even self police themselves, when one of them doesn’t dance to the tune laided by the state. But if your attacking men, religion then it’s all ok.

      In the UK, if you say anything that offends a minority, the reaction of the self policing heard is the threat “I will report you”. What is this Communist Soviet Union? Democracy and Freedom of speech in the west is a facade. The System relies, on terrorizing the herd to conform to keep the empire occupied and enslaved.

    • Fiddler says:

      10:23am | 17/10/12

      agreed, and those who call for it to be made illegal seem to be forgetting one important point.

      If it’s made illegal there has to be a penalty and needs to be enforced. Do you really think that police need to be investigating and prosecuting this crap? Making serious threats, yes, hurtful comments, no.

    • Matchofbris says:

      10:24am | 17/10/12

      Yeah. This.

      The whole woe of bullying or trolling online summed up: ITS FUCKING CALLED BLOCK/REPORT/HIDE/PRIVACY SETTINGS. Welcome to Internet 101, dumb teenagers.

    • subotic says:

      10:40am | 17/10/12

      People constantly correct me whenever I refer to myself as a troll, and technically, I guess I consider myself more the “comment provocateur” than a mindless fight picker or online bully.

      By the same token, I appreciate the fact that I do indeed purposely, deliberately, and thoughtfully (?) engage others online for the purpose of starting a shit storm and causing some downright online chaos.

      But here’s the really cool part – I know where the “OFF” button is on the computer. Yes, I know, a computer actually has a button that turns the bloody thing off! Who would have thought it?

      Just like you don’t have to accept social network friend requests. Now, I know some people might find this hard to believe, but did you actually know that you don’t even have to have a FakeBook account? Nooooooo, it’s true. Regardless of all your so-called “friends” being able to annoy you with their all important status updates every 3.8 seconds, the truth of the matter is you really don’t need to be on any goddamn social network. Ever. Period.

      And if, for example, say your daughter got killed 3 days ago and on day 3 you’re worrying about someone trolling your dead daughter’s R.I.P. page, then I don’t think the “troll” or bully has the real problem here….

    • Fiddler says:

      10:41am | 17/10/12

      Bille, yes I have.

      Look into it a little more and you will find it was a great deal more than what she reported (one picture) when she was allegedly doing webcams with randoms on chatroulette.

      She would not have received any attention at all unless she was attractive. Had she been fat or pimply no-one would have given a stuff

    • Ohcomeon says:

      12:13pm | 17/10/12

      subotic,

      ive always seen you as more of a bomb thrower than a troll. Trolls will hold any view to get attention, whereas I think you do actually want a discussion and start at the extreme end to generate conversation.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      12:42pm | 17/10/12

      Well put Ohcomeon. Bullies on the internet hold no power of you being the bottom line. Only that power which you choose to give them by being weak willed and maybe a bit of a puss. If someone ‘harassed’ me online I probably wouldn’t have enough shits to give to be worried about it. I think it says a lot about people who take the stuff personally and let it affect their real life.

    • subotic comes off says:

      01:06pm | 17/10/12

      @Ohcomeon, shhhhhhhh!

    • Tubesteak says:

      01:49pm | 17/10/12

      Just because they have very little power does not mean they are not bullies. They’re bullies. Just ineffectual bullies. They have only as much power as you give them.

    • Leah says:

      02:34pm | 17/10/12

      Wow ohcomeon, you have a very rudimentary understanding of online bullying. You do not have to be ‘friends’ with someone online for them to bully you. Someone can circulate photos and rumours about you online without you connecting with them in any way. It is not just name-calling. They can send you threatening and harassing emails and text messages. Yes you can change your email address and phone number but a victim shouldn’t have to do that any more than they should have to change schools, quit a job or move house to avoid physical/face-to-face bullying. “They have no way of making trouble for you in the real world”? What a joke. Amanda Todd had to change schools three times because of her online bully. Do some research.

    • Buttermenthlol says:

      02:59pm | 17/10/12

      Hey Billie, I bet you were driving one of the Kony2012 bandwagons too..

      http://imgur.com/rSxBV

    • Buttermenthlol says:

      04:59pm | 17/10/12

      After posting that, which I don’t really approve of (the Amanda Todd story was very sad) I should explain I posted it because of the comments, and people like Billie.  The ‘Billie’s’ of the world can do just as much damage as the ‘bullies’ or ‘trolls’ by being uninformed and simply taking the internet seriously.  It’s the internet ffs..

      The commenters on Amanda’s page were nice, even though she did some things people may consider not very tasteful.  The comments on Shania’s were simply disgusting, and purely based on race.  Amanda could have solved her problem easily, by going to the police, she chose not to.  Shania did nothing yet was still flamed by idiots. The internet is not a nice place, or a real place.  Commenting on things you don’t really know about can cause as much trouble as ‘bullying’..

      If you’re gonna take the internet seriously, you’re gonna have a bad time..

    • marley says:

      05:45pm | 17/10/12

      @buttermenthol - Amanda Todd was a kid, a child when it started.  She was 15 when it ended. Going to the police?  How many kids her age would even think of it?

      Her problem was that the internet bully incited a group of actual face-to-face bullies she had to deal with every day, in school.  Yes, maybe her parents should have managed the situation better, but it doesn’t absolve the bully.

    • Steve says:

      10:20am | 17/10/12

      It is not a black and white issue.  There are not cyber bullies on one side and trolls on the other.  Trolls often push the limits of what is acceptable but the location of that line is not obvious.  Cyber bullies perhaps do not care that there is a line at all.  But one persons troll is another persons bully.

      Anonymity allows posters to be much more aggressive and insulting then they ever would be in a face to face discussion.  There is no context or non-verbals to inhibit behaviour through shame, pity or guilt.  That makes online discussions more intense but also less significant. 

      In my opinion too many people do not take responsibility for their own reactions.  What ever happened to “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me”?  People need to HTFU and dismiss trolls and cyber bullies as the low life they often are.

      While we all should embrace the duty of civil disobedience, I do not believe that online trolling is up there in the vanguard of heroic resistance.

    • L. says:

      10:40am | 17/10/12

      “But one persons troll is another persons bully.”

      Or..

      One person’s Troll is someones comedian.

      Lets face it, some Trolls are funny.

      Can I not ‘troll’ Osama Bin Ladin’s memory?

      Can I not ‘troll’ Charles Manson?

      Can I not ‘troll’.. well, you get my point.

      Because once it becomes ‘law’, I can no longer ‘troll’ Manson, Wahibist Mullah’s who advocate shooting 14 yr old girls in the head or ‘sumbag’ Australian polticians who steal union funds <—- See what I did there? I trolled, and that would be made illegal.

    • Markus says:

      10:51am | 17/10/12

      “Anonymity allows posters to be much more aggressive and insulting then they ever would be in a face to face discussion.”
      Rubbish. Anonymity limits insults and ‘aggression’ to text form, which apart from being easily blocked/ignored/avoided, does not even come close to the level of aggression and intimidation one can generate through the use of physical presence and/or violence.

    • Fedup says:

      10:20am | 17/10/12

      There is something VERY wrong with telling someone to go and kill themselves, and if you don’t know that - there is the problem!  Bullying comes in many different forms and is not always physical. The most destructive bullying I’ve had to help teenagers through in the work I do is emotional rather than physical. These kids are not in a position to just say stop or to unfriend or block. Ohcomeon - perfect example of absolute lack of responsibility and totally selfish on your part to even consider the impact you have on others.

    • Ohcomeon says:

      10:48am | 17/10/12

      Rubbish. I live in the real world Fedup, where people do and say horrible things to each other. People either learn to deal with it, or they dont.

      I personally would never say such things to a human, but people do and the victims need to learn how to deal. The world is rough, cruel and horrible and pretending that it isnt does no one any favours.

    • Tubesteak says:

      11:48am | 17/10/12

      HTFU. Grow up.

    • subotic pushes your buttons says:

      11:51am | 17/10/12

      There is something VERY wrong with telling someone to go and kill themselves, and then someone goes and kills themselves, instead of, say, un-friending (god I can’t believe I wrote that) some random FakeBook “friend” who taunts you about being such a loser.

      These kids are not in a position to just say stop or to unfriend or block

      I call bullshit. The “off” button is the sweetest of all buttons to push, and every kid knows that.

    • Admiral Ackbar says:

      12:48pm | 17/10/12

      “These kids are not in a position to just say stop or to unfriend or block.”

      If the so called bullying is emotional as you claim, then yes they have every opportunity to simply not listen or not take it to heart. And if you actually go and try to kill yourself after someone on the internet suggests that you do, I think the problem is a little closer to home and you should probably book yourself into some nice therapy.

    • marley says:

      01:34pm | 17/10/12

      Well, let’s talk about Amanda Todd for a minute. The poor kid makes a mistake at the age of 12, flashing a webcam, and her cyberstalker posts it all over the place.  She’s humiliated at school. So she changes school.  Stalker locates her and reposts the pix to anyone who’s got an account in the school.  Second humiliation. And bullying, lots of it, face to face, in real time, by her schoolmates.  It happens two or three times more, the kid goes into a spiral of depression, substance abuse and eventually kills herself.

      I don’t think it’s quite as easy as just hitting the off button.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      03:24pm | 17/10/12

      @marley I agree, some people out there “in the real world” don’t seem to be living in the same “real world” as the victims. Chances are they are the people who as kids in school did all the bullying (or their preferred term “helping others build character”).

    • Matchofbris says:

      10:22am | 17/10/12

      I’m still ruing the day that idiot mainstream media started trying to be cyber-hip and use memes, internet slang, and all that shit in their reporting.

      Frankly, any article that even mentions the word troll instantly looks about as classy as A Current Affair. Which is to say, classless and tacky.

      Anyway, as for the article itself: state the obvious.

      Trolling - a bit of lol. Bullying - orchestrated torment.

      I just summed your entire pointless blog post up in one line.

    • L. says:

      10:43am | 17/10/12

      “Trolling - a bit of lol. Bullying - orchestrated torment. “

      State more of the obvious..

      Trolling a problem? Turn off the PC or block, delete etc.

      Bullying a problem? You often can’t escape the physical presence, and can be in true physical danger.

      Spot the difference?

    • Matchofbris says:

      12:44pm | 17/10/12

      L,

      I regarded it as a speedy summary.

      As for the rest, I wasn’t making any comment on that, but I agree - it’s called privacy settings/block/report etc. It’s a no brainer that idiots fail to understand.

    • Chris says:

      10:22am | 17/10/12

      The mistake people are making is trying to put a single definition to “trolling”. It has a wide spectrum of forms, and yes, cyber bullying is indeed an extreme form of trolling.  There is trolling that is perfectly acceptable - usually witty responses to comments/opinions that do call to attention someone’s hypocrisy, inconsistency or even just their lack of understanding. But sometimes people cross the line, to varying degrees.

      I liken it to the NRL judiciary charges. You have gradings. There is Careless, Reckless and Intentional.

      Careless “trolling” is saying something which you think is witty and clever, but inadvertently insults or offends someone. Worth nothing more than a slap on the wrist, that’s life.

      Reckless is where you might say something with intent to cause a stir, and inadvertently hit a really raw, personal nerve that causes emotional distress to them - an unintended or out of context racial slur, or reference to some personal tragedy you had no way of knowing about. That’s probably where you should start to feel bad for it and apologise.

      Intentional is the Ivan Milat of trolling. Where you deliberately set out to hunt victims, hurt, intimidate, threaten and harass them so they stop contributing, stop expressing their own views…or worse. That’s your cyber bullying.

      It’s all borne out of the same initial thought process - to stir the pot online. And I know the vast majority of them would never dream of doing or saying the same kind of stuff to someone’s face.

    • Claire says:

      10:29am | 17/10/12

      Ohcomeon, you only have to look at the number of teen suicides that have occured over the last year because of online bullying to know that bullying occurs on and offline.

      People like you and me may have the emotional maturity to know when to block, ignore or log off, but man, when I read some of the vile stuff people say online, there is no way 16-year-old me would have known how to cope with that.

      I do worry that teens aren’t being taught the proper coping mechanisms to deal with the horrible things being levelled at them by their peers and complete strangers online. There are some days I don’t know how to cope.

      Without going all “won’t somebody think of the children”, I do think this is something that urgently needs addressing.

    • subotic says:

      10:55am | 17/10/12

      Without going all “won’t somebody think of the children”, I do think this is something that urgently needs addressing.

      What, like the parents turning the computer off, or not paying the account?

      Coping mechanisms? I know, right….

    • Ohcomeon says:

      12:21pm | 17/10/12

      I dont get your point. People said vile stuff to me when I was 16 at school, and to my face. I had to deal with it then in person. I dont see how being online has changed or made this dynamic any worse.

      On facebook you can just ignore someone. This has nothing to do with being online, and everything to do with learning how to deal with the world. People are going to be horrible to you at some point, better learn how to cope.

    • Tim says:

      01:03pm | 17/10/12

      So are we going to make it illegal for people to say mean stuff to others in real life?

      Everyone gets bullied as a kid, it’s a part of life. You either deal with it or not, but it should not be legislated against.

    • Michael says:

      01:18pm | 17/10/12

      @subotic - For parents not to be paying the account or turning the computer off would mean that they are fully aware of the situation to begin with. Cause, you know, all teenagers are wholly honest and forthright all the time and pro-actively tell their parents everything they need to know about whats going on in their lives… Of course parents have to set the boundaries and be aware of the risks that their children face, BUT it would be nice, dont you think, that by addressing cyber bullying then society would have better outcomes for some of these troubled teens. Bullying used to occur usually from the hours of 8 am - 4 pm now it can be 24/7 with no respite where turning off the computer will not delete that email, wont remove that message nor will it take back that SMS. They are all waiting there once its turned back on.

    • subotic says:

      02:28pm | 17/10/12

      @Michael, how about teaching boys to be masculine, girls to be feminine, and teaching parents to be both responsible & interested in their children’s education & activities first?

      If we get those little bits right in the first instance, the rest should follow.

      Right?

    • Simon Sharwood says:

      10:47am | 17/10/12

      I think it is also worth mentioning that the term “hacker” has also been imbued with new meaning that has little to do with its origins. The term was originally used to describe those who found clever, if technically inelegant, solutions to problems. Along the way it somehow came to mean “computer criminals”.
      IMHO it’s worth reclaiming language to give it more precise meaning.

    • George says:

      10:52am | 17/10/12

      Bullying doesn’t just come in the in your face type. There’s also a lot of more subtle forms like bitching, backstabbing, gossiping, lying and all sorts of bad behaviour in the world. So to just take on one and not the other is lame.

      Or we could all just get over it and just accept that’s how people are.

    • Claire Connelly says:

      11:02am | 17/10/12

      Absolutely agree, Simon. History has shown how jargon has been used to shape our attitudes to race, gender, class and social structure. Reclaiming the original meaning of words - especially in the digital space - is central to changing the direction this debate is headed in.

    • hmm says:

      11:21am | 17/10/12

      Journalists ruined the word in the first place so you’re reclaiming the word from yourself.
      I’m pretty sure the people you speak of that “reclaimed” the original meaning of words were in the affected minorities. A white person didn’t reclaim the n word and a straight person didn’t reclaim the f word - so a journalist can not reclaim the troll word. Sorry.

    • MD says:

      11:06am | 17/10/12

      You could have trolled 99% of the comment section by going with the classic ‘Trolling is a art’. Such an opportunity wasted…

      Unless you’re meta trolling, which would be pretty slick for a journo. Maybe a piece of that next!

    • Nugger says:

      11:32am | 17/10/12

      I think you’ll find trolling is a art, Claire.

    • John says:

      12:16pm | 17/10/12

      I think the term trolling, has been misrepresented as bullying.
      Trolling is about being imaginative, have unique expression that cause’s a heavy reaction. The heavier the reaction the more successful it was. It can be represented as lying trolling, and truth trolling. Either way both true or lying, he or she giggles when someone reply’s to it or giggles when the post is submitted.

      It’s like a form of pleasure of destroying someone’s else’s world view. It’s a form of debate really at the end of day. If you were to put one of these trolls against politician, the politician would be destroyed, because the troll is so imaginative, creative that he or she can create argument that is so sharp and destructive, for the purpose of getting a giggle. Truther Trolls have no tolerance for lairs. When Truther Troll meets a Lying Troll, it’s an easy win. The Lying trolls get wiped out pretty quickly.

      Truther trolls are very dangerous, they could change political landscape in the next 10 to 20 years. The lying politicians better watch out.

      It also seems that US intelligence agency’s have implemented trolling, when they release the Mohammed video, which cause heavy reaction around the world. That’s called government sponsored trolling. They successful trolled Muslim populations around the world, with the aid of the western media.

    • Bushy says:

      11:57am | 17/10/12

      No one knows what trolling even is in the media.
      It’s simple, say something thats intentionally wrong with the purpose of annoying somebody.  I’ve been trolling the seven seas of teh internets for 15 years and thats all its ever been.

      Why your seeing people saying ‘trolling is a art form’ to upset the spelling nazis.

      This chick taking her own life is from some bully who wasn’t aware of his actions causing such great consequences.  Anonymity gives you, psychologically a buffer that seperates you emotionally from your actions.  Which is why in war the aircraft pilots have less psychological damage from bombing people because they are so far away from it when it happens.  However front line soldiers cop post war disorders the most because they are up close and personal to the action and not anonymous like a fighter pilot.

    • Tatty_Anne says:

      01:28pm | 17/10/12

      I’ve been on the net for over 15 years too and trolls were named such for a reason.  Trolls are ugly friendless little beasts that live under bridges and only pop out to harass passers-by.  They were not thought of as nice.

      Yahoo used to have a fantastic public message board, a bit like a super-sized Punch, and it worked really well until it became so infested with trolls, Yahoo shut it down.

    • Rossco says:

      12:17pm | 17/10/12

      blah even the word bully or cyber bully is overused these days.

      Just call a spade a spade, these online people are wankers, losers, morons and idiots and should be deleted or ignored on sight. Don’t even troubling with calling them a name actually, just ignore or delete them. If we all had this philosophy, the world would be a better place.

    • Guy fawkes says:

      12:22pm | 17/10/12

      ” DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS” is a generalisation on nearly all forums.Trolls are usually people that think they are superior in intellect to the general population, sadly they are not, they are selfish individuals who get their “jollies” by causing upset in people with their snide ,nasty comments towards normal people who may be online looking for help or just support.
        Bullies on the other hand are looking to create misery on their victims wherever they can find someone to be “Bullied”.
      Sadly the only way to kill off both species is to make the owners of the site responsible hit them in the Hip pocket or shut the site down eg facebook ,twitter and the rest of the social media sites.
      Doubtless i am going to be Flamed for this by the countless masses and the site owners who say “We are not responsible for the posts of our members’ .
      Just remember if you are not a member of the site you cannot be Trolled or Bullied.
      all the best,
      Guy Fawkes

    • Guy fawkes says:

      12:22pm | 17/10/12

      ” DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS” is a generalisation on nearly all forums.Trolls are usually people that think they are superior in intellect to the general population, sadly they are not, they are selfish individuals who get their “jollies” by causing upset in people with their snide ,nasty comments towards normal people who may be online looking for help or just support.
        Bullies on the other hand are looking to create misery on their victims wherever they can find someone to be “Bullied”.
      Sadly the only way to kill off both species is to make the owners of the site responsible hit them in the Hip pocket or shut the site down eg facebook ,twitter and the rest of the social media sites.
      Doubtless i am going to be Flamed for this by the countless masses and the site owners who say “We are not responsible for the posts of our members’ .
      Just remember if you are not a member of the site you cannot be Trolled or Bullied.
      all the best,
      Guy Fawkes

    • Warrenz says:

      12:35pm | 17/10/12

      While we’re changing the language why don’t we drop the ‘cyber’ and just call them what they are, bullies.  It just adds another layer of anonymity like ‘terrorist’ legitimises and de-personalises common criminals.
      The internet is lawless and the sooner it stops protecting scumbags like this the better.  While I’m on this rant, E-Bay should be brought to account too….sick and tired of trying to get tickets to a Pink concert and then seeing scumbags selling them on E-bay at triple the price.

    • Kika says:

      02:15pm | 17/10/12

      Isn’t that illegal? The EBay rules say you can’t sell tickets for a profit.

    • Markus says:

      02:55pm | 17/10/12

      Do what people did with Soundwave scalpers - bid such ridiculous amounts on the tickets as to make them completely unsellable.

      That said, I do find it a little concerning to see (I assume) a grown man so upset about tickets to a Pink concert…

    • Leonard says:

      12:37pm | 17/10/12

      IMHO the Anonymity part is the difference on wether the negative comment is something I take notice of.

      if someone says something offensive about me and I have no idea who they are?  Who gives a flying ..... 

      But if I know the person (in the case of most teenages and probably the Amanda Todd issue)  the hurtfull coments are from people you see every day (or go to school with) and that is these comments attack the very the very basic human need of “Acceptance”.

      Humans want to be accepted by their peers to be like, loved so going around thinkikng that everyone hates you.

      Basic rule.  If you wouldn’t say it to their face, don’t put in online.

    • Ian Matthews says:

      12:38pm | 17/10/12

      To troll, or not to troll: that is the question:
      Whether ‘tis bullying by the mindless to hurl
      The slings and arrows of outrageous abuse,
      Or to troll with wit the prejudices of a sea of believers,
      And by opposing harass them? To drive them: to distraction;

    • Gordon says:

      03:53pm | 17/10/12

      Hh, well done!

    • FINK says:

      01:07pm | 17/10/12

      Trolling is done by someone with wit, bullying is done by someone being a fuckwit..! See the difference.

    • Amanda says:

      01:08pm | 17/10/12

      I really wanted to like this article but the use of ‘cyber’ in the first sentence prevented me from reading further.  Can we please leave the mid-90s buzz words out of it and just call it ‘online’ bullying as you did further down the article?

      Secondly, Charlotte Dawson took on the trolls and lost. Retweeting every bad tweet said about her just fuelled the fire and the trolls loved it.  When she realised it wasn’t working she cried victim.  No sympathy.

      I wish the internet was still the domain of the true geeks who understood how the internet worked.

      Bring back Rod Speed I say.

    • Pippa says:

      01:35pm | 17/10/12

      The human urge to defend is a basic instinct, whether that be defending yourself or others.  Very few people will sit back and take abuse and criticism.  Some people cope better with sledging than others.  The trolls and “cyber” bullies feed off the weak.  I agree with the “dont feed the trolls” comment but again, it is basic human nature to defend.  Trolls and bullies are low and pathetic people with no compassion - pure and simple.  I strongly believe they should be punished to the full extend of the law.  Road rage is against the law, intimidating someone in a vehicle is a crime.  It is dangerous and undermines peoples safety.  Internet rage is just the same.  Make it illegal, punish these people by denying them the right to have access to the internet.  Make them do community service and LEARN how to treat people kindly and with compassion.

    • Phillb says:

      01:56pm | 17/10/12

      I wish we could take back the word bullying personally.
      Children excluding others from games isn’t in itself bullying, it it the childs right to choose who they play with.
      2 teenagers getting in a (one off) fight in the schoolyard is not bullying, it is a fight.
      Telling an employee to get on with their job and stop looking at Facebook is not workplace bullying.
      Saying something nasty about someone on the internet you have never met and chances are never will probably isn’t bullying.  There are obivous exceptions, Nic Lochner comes to mind.

      De-sensitize the word and all you do is harm the victims of actual bullying.

      Now stop trolling the bully’s smile

    • Leah says:

      02:28pm | 17/10/12

      This.

      Trolls just stir up harmless trouble for fun. They throw out bait to create arguments and sit back and watch. An example of a troll would be someone who goes onto a Joss Whedon fanpage or discussion thread and says Firefly was a crap show and then waits for the outrage. They do not harass, intimidate or bully individual people.

      Sometimes a cyber bully may also engage in trolling. But that doesn’t make them the same thing.

    • mick says:

      02:50pm | 17/10/12

      Big thank you for this article - I’ve made a point to mention the distinction between trolling and plain abuse in many SMH articles.
      The only thing that i would add to this is that trolling is not necessarily used to parody and critique with wit and ‘art’, as there are whole branches of trolling dedicated to ‘baiting’ their targets to illicit reactions, for example, and those that play ‘tricks’, such as rickrolling

    • Alex says:

      02:54pm | 17/10/12

      The thing about these articles bashing on trolls is that most people have no idea what a troll actually is, or where the term came from. Trolls have been around far longer than most people realise. They were certainly around long before the articles and media spotlight.

      Trolling, is taken from the term, well, trolling. When you tie brightly coloured lures on a hook, sit on the back of a boat, and trail the damn thing through the water, using the bright colours to attract fish.  Internet trolls do exactly the same thing. They post phrases or opinions they KNOW will hook some clever soul into replying with a heated response, and it gets worse from there.

      Internet bullies are just that. Bullies. They don’t post to get a reaction. They post out of spite, and hate, with the soul intent of causing mental anguish and stress.

      The two are very different beings. Trolls just get a kick out of getting peoples heckles up. Bullies get a kick out of mentally beating people to the ground.

      For the people who seemed to get bullied the most, kids, well there’s an easy solution. Stop letting them on the internet unsupervised. There’s a reason Facebook has an 18+ clause. Where are the parents?

      Like that poor girl in Canada. I feel for her. It was a tragedy. But where were her parents in all this? They were happy to up and move the girl a few times, but at what point did they not think ‘well, this all started on facebook and cam chatting’? And what self respecting parents let a year seven girl use facebook and cam chats unsupervised? Honestly.

      And yes, I have a teenage daughter. And no, she does not use any form of social media what so ever. And she understands why. Because sitting down and chatting to her about the dangers, and why I wont let her until shes 18, is far better than picking up the pieces when some creepy sleaze on the net gets pics of her tits.

      Want to stop the bullying? Then get off the net. Supervise your kids. Take some responsibility.

    • The Bunyip says:

      03:59pm | 17/10/12

      It’s a bit like conflating misogyny and sexism, isn’t?  Although if it’s the PM doing the conflating, history will be rewritten to suit her. 

      Oh, sorry, I meant the dictionary will be rewritten, not history.

    • Laura says:

      04:10pm | 17/10/12

      What we need is a comparison ‘meme’ that highlights the difference between someone being trolled on the internet, and someone being bullied and harrassed. Hopefully that should clear things up a little for the old media who seem to so readily conflate the terms.

    • Merry Troll says:

      05:16pm | 17/10/12

      Troll, roll, rolling a long, sing, sing, singing my song, song singiddy song.  wink

    • Emma says:

      06:07pm | 17/10/12

      I’m so over hearing this freedom of speech argument in regard to nasty behaviour online.

      Freedom of speech as I believe it, is being able to stand up and protest or disagree against legislation, politics, social expectations or ethical issues.  It’s feeling passionate about something you care about, or something which might affect society or the community you live in.

      Telling someone to go kill themselves, or that they’re ugly or worthless or any of the other vile things people say online is not freedom of speech - it’s mean spirited, antisocial, angry, abusive and comes from someone who can’t control themselves. 

      Yes we humans do say mean things to each other but saying it in person, where you have to take responsibility and consequences is a lot different to typing it online when you don’t know the person or their coping mechanisms and you can just walk away without a care in the world.  Some of you are very naive if you don’t think that will have a negative effect on society in the long term.

      I agree that we need to educate teenagers about online behaviour and how to deal with bullying etc, but come one, most of you surely don’t want to live in a world where people say exactly what they think, when they want, to whomever they want.

      After all, you wouldn’t want somebody to do it to you ....

    • Amy says:

      06:25pm | 17/10/12

      The issue here really is that the media took the word troll and ran with it. They’re two different things.
      Cyber Bullies are the disgusting low lives we’re seeing more and more of in the media.
      Trolls are people that just say something to get a rise out of you. A REAL troll doesn’t go off the deep end with nastiness just to get a reaction - there’s an “art” to it, almost. Its supposed to just mildly annoy you to make you react, and then they have a giggle and stop before it gets too far.

      Ever heard the sentence “hook line and sinker!”? - its just the same as your mate doing this face to face. Only online with someone you don’t know.
      Trolling is not the same as cyber bullying.

    • Honesty says:

      06:26pm | 17/10/12

      I am glad that someone is looking at the internet bullying “problem” more clearly, if you dont like bullies putting you down, block them, close your acclount, dont egg them on with whining and threats to hurt yourself as retaliation for their behaviour. Parents, take notice of what is going on with your kids….

    • Emma says:

      06:39pm | 17/10/12

      I’m so over hearing this freedom of speech argument in regard to nasty behaviour online.

      Freedom of speech as I believe it, is being able to stand up and protest or disagree against legislation, politics, social expectations or ethical issues.  It’s feeling passionate about something you care about, or something which might affect society or the community you live in.

      Telling someone to go kill themselves, or that they’re ugly or worthless or any of the other vile things people say online is not freedom of speech - it’s mean spirited, antisocial, angry, abusive and comes from someone who can’t control themselves.  Do people really want to defend their right so vehemently to be a moron?

      Yes we humans do say mean things to each other but saying it in person, where you have to take responsibility and consequences is a lot different to typing it online when you don’t know the person or their coping mechanisms and you can just walk away without a care in the world.  Some of you are very naive if you don’t think that will have a negative effect on society in the long term.

      I agree that we need to educate teenagers about online behaviour and how to deal with bullying etc, but come one, most of you surely don’t want to live in a world where people say exactly what they think, when they want, to whomever they want.

      After all, you wouldn’t want somebody to do it to you ....

 

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