Online ‘trolls’ are not always bad — they can be mischievous and they can prompt people to talk about contentious subjects. For example, online activists have used trolling as a way to call out people who were being homophobic.
Trolling is not when someone makes a personal attack — that’s ‘flaming’ or online hate — but the term ‘trolling’ often gets misused in the media to mean someone who is engaged in online hate. The problem with this is that by calling people who dish out online hate ‘trolls’, we diminish the very real suffering that online haters and abusers inflict on their targets.
That said, ‘trolls’, when used correctly to describe online tricksters or provocateurs, can still be really annoying. Trolls often post many of their provocative messages or comments anonymously, which makes it difficult to identify who the person actually is. This anonymity can make people feel more powerful and willing to say more provocative things than they would IRL (in real life). Here are some tips for how to deal with online trolls.
What to do
Don’t feed the trolls
Resist the urge to respond. As tempting as it will be, by replying, you will just be giving the troll what they want. Not responding is the best response.
Block and report
If it spills over into online hate or cyberbullying, your best course of action is to block the abuser and report the abuse. Most social media sites have rules against abusive online behaviour and tools that allow you to report any comments or accounts. For more information about a specific site or service, see the eSafety Guide.
Report to eSafety
If it’s getting serious, and you are under 18, you can report it to eSafety. We can help take any abusive content down and point you in the right direction if you need other help. If you are over 18 read our advice on how to deal with cyber abuse.
Talk to someone or get help
Talk to a trusted adult and get support from friends or your parent or carer. There are also many online counselling services with trained professionals who are ready to hear you out.