The local twitterverse was abuzz this week about a certain troll who had tweeted the most incendiary comments about Islam, Malaysia, Singapore and even Brunei this side of crazy I have ever had the displeasure to read. Last I checked the troll's account has been deactivated, but if you are curious enough, you may still find screenshots of the insane twitter conversations unfortunately posted on Facebook and blog posts and re-tweeted on Twitter.
Unless you've been living underneath an unconnected rock, when I write "troll" the first thing that comes to your mind is not the ugly grey monster that lives under the bridge harassing the three billy goats gruff, nor the small, colourful bushy haired plastic toy that you keep on your desk for fun and laughter, but anonymous online people who, for reasons unbeknownst to the rest of us, aim to offend and shock all and sundry with their online behavior.
While doing research for this article, I came across many other shocking, and not for the faint hearted, instances of troll like behavior that has pervaded the Internet. To say that we are lucky to be residing in a local online world where everyone pretty much gets along is an understatement. In countries like the United States and United Kingdom, this is not always the case. A person may say or do something online that can attract a band of trolls, and end up with harassing phone calls, hundreds of pizzas sent to their home, identity theft and even violent death threats.
Instances of trolling include cyber bullying, flaming or posting incendiary comments on a message board. Overseas, trolls have been known to embark on elaborate and distressing pranks. Using on-line anonymity to create false identities, they have been known to harass or disturb victims to such a harrowing extent that they would take their own lives.
One story of trolling involved the unprovoked attention given to the bereaved parents of a teen living in the States who had committed suicide in 2006. The trolls started a vicious online campaign smearing the memory of the recently departed. This came into real life, with prank calls to the parents from trolls claiming to be their son, speaking from the grave, and lasted for well over a year.
Obviously, in terms of trolling much of what is said online is in real life a crime, such as criminal defamation or incitement of racial or religious hatred. In September 2011, Sean Duffy a young man from Reading, England was sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment for defacing Facebook tributes to four dead teenagers whom he had never met. He was charged with sending malicious messages.
We have all seen incendiary defamatory and unpleasant comments posted on various comment boards. These arise out of the ability to remain anonymous on the Internet.
Some would say that this gives justification for greater regulation of the on-line space, with the requirement for registration of on-line identities. The great majority of Internet users would however bridle and object to any type of state intervention on the Internet.
The thing to remember with the trolls, is that in their twisted psyche, pleasure is derived from knowing that they have created anguish and uproar to complete strangers thousand of miles away. One must remember this and simply deny them this pleasure, so there was no need to re-tweet or re-post the incendiary comments in the first place. In other words, do not feed the troll.
Illustration by Cuboi Art.
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