What are 'Internet Trolls'?

13News Now Arrianee LeBeau had the story

(WVEC) -- If you’re active in online communities or on social media sites, you may have experienced what many savvy Internet users call “Internet Trolls.” It may sound funny, but “Internet Trolls” are people who lurk online searching and waiting to attack strangers on the internet.

Myles McNutt, a Communications Professor at Old Dominion University, he teaches a course that emphasizes how students approach our contemporary reality of new media. He said internet trolls are not anything new, but they seem to be more prevalent because of the increase of people participating in online communities, for instance like Twitter.

“When Twitter would have first launched it would have been mainly for enthusiast but now theoretically everyone should be on Twitter. It’s a very mainstream form of communication. Whether it's political candidates, brands, companies, everyone wants to be a part of that social network,” said McNutt.

So what exactly do “Internet Trolls’ do? There’s a term called “trolling” where “Internet Trolls” will jump into online discussion and insult people who have different opinions than their own.

“We are talking about somebody who is sort of working against the central goals of the community. So if the purpose of an online community is to communicate with people, connect with them, let's take an online comment section. In an online comment section your goal is to create discussion to create debate, dialogue to sort of help understand an issue by getting participation. A troll is going to come in and say I don't want to have discourse; I don't want to have dialogue. I just want to express an opinion express how all other opinions are wrong. I'm the only right one,” said McNutt. Here’s how Wikipedia defines it:

"Someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

So how do you deal with an “Internet Troll”? Here’s what McNutt recommends:

1. Do not feed the “Trolls” – giving in to the “trolls” or responding to their attacks only fuels their responses.

2. Report it – some social media sites allow you to report instances in which “trolling” may violate their terms of usage.

“Twitter allows you to report tweets, report abuse or these details and those reports go up the chain. The challenge is that Twitter is often inconsistent how it legislates those abuse claims. In many cases the reports were coming back saying that this doesn't violate our terms of service. That trolling in itself is not enough. That there needs to be some line being crossed but no one quite knows where that line is or how you legislate that line,” said McNutt. So when it comes to dealing with “Internet Trolls” it’s best to, just ignore them.

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