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Trolls: How to deal

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Cartoonist Ben Garrison posted something “about the Fed” online, says an article at www.vice.com, and this created a firestorm, leading to his billing as the “most trolled cartoonist in the world.” You see, his other cartoons were altered in an offensive way, fooling people into thinking these alterations were his original creations.

11DHow can Garrison climb out of the hole others dug for him? First identify the type of trolling.The vice.com article describes several forms of trolling:

  • Hate speech. This targets anyone other than a white straight man who’s not transgender.
  • Cyberbullying. Targets are often known by the cyberbullies, though I’d like to point out that in this day and age, if you disagree with someone’s comment on an article, you might be called a bully.
  • Trolling. Like cyberbullying, trolling has developed an incredibly broad encompassment, but in its truest form, it refers to anonymous harassing. The basic difference between cyberbullying and trolling is that the target has no way of responding directly to the troller.
  • Griefing. Many people do something little, like send a nasty tweet. The act itself is minor, but when multiplied by all the people repeating it, it creates a huge effect.

After you identify the type of trolling, report it to the social media platform it occurred on.

  • Facebook doesn’t permit online harassment, but this doesn’t mean it can’t be done. If a FB user allows anyone to post on the page, then gee, a hateful message can easily be posted (though the FB user could take it down and block that person after that point).
  • Twitter doesn’t like hateful messages either, but admits that in the past, they stunk at regulating it, though they’ve gotten better, and in fact, will suspend a violator.
  • The Online Hate Prevention Institute runs Fight Against Hate. Report hateful content, then log the report to FAH, and OHPI will track how long it takes the platform to respond. If the platform is lifeless, then FAH can take action.

The third step is to watch for Phoenix pages. The vice.com article defines a Phoenix page as follows: “…a hate speech fanpage or harassing user is removed from Facebook and then immediately creates a new page or account.”

A Phoenix page can pick up steam much faster than the time it takes to remove it. In fact, Facebook was lax at taking down Garrison’s troll pages. Garrison spent “countless hours” trying to get libel removed from Facebook and Twitter. If you’ve been harassed, be on the lookout for if the harasser has been removed—the appearance of re-created pages and users. Report this promptly.

Next step: Report the problem to the police if it’s interfering with your daily life, though I need to point out that I’ve heard of people becoming unraveled simply because someone kept insulting them in some thread.

Also, the police can’t do anything if the harasser is in a different country. In fact, when writer Amanda Hess reported online harassment to the police, he asked her what Twitter was.

It’s best maybe to bypass the local cops and just give the report to the FBI. You can do this through the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Don’t even think about hiring an attorney; you’ll sink time and money. And trying to get money out of the harasser could be like trying to get blood out of a rock.

Rebuilding your tainted reputation is the final step. One way is to put a disclaimer on your site stating that you’re ignoring the trolls. Admit you’ve been trolled. Let people know what’s happening. This approach might make some of the trolls vanish. In other words, don’t “feed the trolls,” as the saying goes.

If you’re able to contact a troller, then do so with the idea of trying to reason with that person. Though this won’t stop all the other trolls, it might help you see them in a different light if you connect with just one of them.

What happened to Garrison and many others was true harassment that marred their reputation. It can affect your business. It can be very serious stuff. But I urge you also not to become overly sensitive to what really amounts to nothing more than name-calling and someone with too much time on their hands spewing nasty comments to you. Don’t get all shaken up just because someone disagrees with your post or even posts the proverbial “your an idiot” (lack of contraction is intended).

Robert Siciliano personal and home security specialist to BestHomeSecurityCompanys.com discussing burglar proofing your home on Fox Boston. Disclosures.

About the Author
ROBERT SICILIANO, CEO of IDTheftSecurity.com is fiercely committed to informing, educating, and empowering Americans so they can be protected from violence and crime in the physical and virtual worlds. His "tell it like it is" style is sought after by major media outlets, executives in the C-Suite of leading corporations, meeting planners, and community leaders to get the straight talk they need to stay safe in a world in which physical and virtual crime is commonplace. Siciliano is accessible, real, professional, and ready to weigh in and comment at a moment's notice on breaking news.

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