Trollery! — Here is How I Handle It.

How I respond to trolling behavior when I see it depends on where it’s happening. These are my rules of thumb. I make exceptions at times but for the most part, these are the best ways I have found of dealing with it.

On My Own Blog

The first thing I do, if I have any question about a comment at all, is put the commenter’s IP address, username, and email address on the moderation list. I do it before I approve the comment, and before I respond. That way, I control whether or not their subsequent comments come through, and I control when they come though.

I have a policy that establishes a clear baseline for what is acceptable on my threads at Sourcerer. If a first comment is so egregious that I don’t want it on my thread at all, I remove it and flag that commenter for permanent moderation until I see what they are up to. If it doesn’t rise to that level, I still flag that person for moderation to pre-empt the possibility of someone stumbling into it, responding, and things getting out of hand while I am not looking.

Do not engage — This is the first and best way to avoid drama on the Internet and the only real proof against intentional trolling. If I am absolutely sure I am dealing with trolling behavior, I send the commenter’s subsequent comments straight to the spam folder and pretend the first one is not there, even if I allow it through. I am not above unceremoniously dumping comments in the trash without a word, but I try to do that only when people don’t respect my policy.

Leave a single reply and see what kind of response I get – I do this if I am not sure, but I don’t spend a lot of time on the comment and don’t try and address everything. I just pick out one idea to question or criticize, and above all, include something conciliatory. Habitual trollers love, love, love to run into people who agree with some of what they say, but not all. That is an opening of sorts, and they exploit it. Sometimes I let them have the opening just so they’ll give me more information about what they’re up to. I only do this on my own blog, or one where I am sure the owner won’t mind. Diana and I have had more than one private conversation about things happening on threads, and one or the other of us has said “give them a little more rope and let’s just see if they hang themselves.”

On Someone Else’s Blog

Do not engage is my first rule. I let the owner of the blog handle it, and I try to stay away from questioning motivations or making assumptions about malice vs. ignorance. If it looks like trolling, I just assume it is until I have more information to go on.

When I stumble into it, the genie is already out of the bottle, and I want to support whomever is dealing with it, I don’t start a new thread of conversation with the person who is trolling. I leave whomever is responding, short, encouraging comments that give the trolling-person little or nothing to latch onto, and I like all the comments on the thread except the trollish ones. I don’t intervene in the conversation because that only fuels the flames and sucks me into it right along with the other person.

For All Cases

Never fight fire with fire. Flame wars got their name for a reason. Be calm, point out errors, ask for evidence, and register disagreement as snarkily as you like. But don’t attack the person, and whatever you do, do not allow yourself to be baited into an emotional exchange or into spending a bunch of time addressing comments point-by-point. Unless you have a reason to do so (as I did recently), it is never a good idea to get into a point-by-point criticism duel with a person who is tossing things onto a thread two and three hundred words at a time. I’ll talk a little tomorrow about why I spent so much time arguing on that thread.

Next: How vulnerable are you? And can you spot the trolling?

(Since I am hosting the linky for #1000Speak, I have been asked to post my compassion post tomorrow a.m. to make the linky available to bloggers who are in the much earlier time zones than me, so the final installment of this series will run this afternoon.)

27 thoughts on “Trollery! — Here is How I Handle It.

  1. All great advice and this series has been very helpful. I have only had the one troll so far and that was aimed at me personally rather than my blog. I made the mistake of initially engaging (I was very new to blogging at the time) but once it became clear they were intent on trolling and not a genuine conversation they were flagged as spam and that was the end of it. I spied their comments in my spam queue but eventually they gave up and went away. It was unpleasant at the time but I am prepared for such things now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s how to handle it for sure.

      Really, it is easy unless you are engaged in a thing where you are trying to win people over in ones and twos and loathe to not engage unless the signs are clear. It’s easy to deal with the trolling on the pop culture blog. It just never even hits the threads.

      Much more difficult decision-making process on the feminism threads. And those tend to be trolling-magnets.


  2. um, wow! I just checked out that tread, did not read it all, it is like several blog posts in there.

    I’ve never actually had any rock solid trolling. Some hate mail, and hate spam yes, trolling? I will be sure to knock on your door for re-enforcement if it does happen.

    Having a commenting policy can be very effective in dealing with such behavior. Or preventing it from happening. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes. A policy is good. Our policies were weak early on. We put teeth in the ones at Part Time Monster and Sourcerer before we started up the feminism thing again.

      I still do not have a policy here. And I don’t plan to, until I need one. Then I copy and paste the one from Sourcerer, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yar. The Internet can get weird. Take comfort in the fact, though, that almost every thread we’ve ever had trolled was a feminism thread. Well, there was one crazy-good trolling comment on a Superman post at Sourcerer one time, that I deleted without thinking. I should have let that one through after blocking the person who left it. It was like three pages of text and it said “Superman sucks sucks sucks sucks sucks sucks sucks . . .” for like three lines at a time but there was an argument about the suckitude of Superman hidden in all that noise. It was epic, and hilarious. I have always regretted not saving that one.

      But mostly if you are doing nothing controversial, the trolling-folk won’t find you, until you start to get busy threads. Then they will find you and stir stuff up on your threads just because there are people to engage with there. It’s kind of a sign you made it. Like if you have your own hashtag, and the spammers find it on Twitter. Same thing. Attention seekers go where there is attention to be had.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, well. Things do get out of hand on the internet a bit, don’t they?

      Hope you never have to deal with trolling, but if you do, don’t let it suck away an entire afternoon. Because life ain’t that long, yo! Whatever you do, if it happens, don’t give them too many words.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Still very glad that you, Diana, and Hannah handled the trolling behavior on my post so that I didn’t have to–I felt overwhelmed and exhausted by it all, so I probably would’ve done one short comment and given up if a subsequent essay followed. Which, of course, wouldn’t have been a bad strategy anyway, but it’s always nice to have supporters have your back when things like that arise.


    • Yes, it would have been the right thing to do to just give the short reply if it were just you. But the planets were just in alignment that day, and we were able to be available and work that thread.

      I am so glad we did. Please leave that thread as is. We all acquitted ourselves well that day. And now we have a fine, fine instructional tool. I may go back to that conversation again before it’s over.


  4. I feel like you actually left off step #1: you have your blog set up so that it moderates certain posts. I think it’s the first post by a new commenter? This is not always a standard practice so it might be worth mentioning here or discussing, the fact of it and the why of it.

    For instance, Holly and I do not have this set up on CG. This got us an amusing, all-German comment on her post the other night about Hush. The comment, from what I could make out between my mostly-forgotten German and English proper nouns was that it was a comment entirely about Batman Begins (which Holly did NOT mention in her post) with a link at the end to their blog? Maybe? We didn’t follow the link. This one got nixed 😉


    • I always moderate first comments and if I allow the first one through, that grants real-time posting privileges. I do it that way because I do not want just anyone to be able to post without it being reviewed. Really I feel as though I am being responsible that way. But at the same time, I am too busy to moderate every comment. Some days, I can barely even answer the threads.

      I do not spell this part out in public very often, because it can be exploited, but basically everyone must have their first comment approved, and if the first one is approved, they are free to do what they want unless they create problems for me. And people who create problems get every single word moderated, which means their comments could sit a couple of days while I think about them and decide what to do with them.

      People who enjoy the Sourcerer content and want to talk to the contributors and get to know them do not want to get permanently moderated.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good point this is sort of a strategic consideration to mention… But it is a valuable piece for the blogger considering how to protect themselves. Probably only a necessary piece if you get as much discussion as, say, Sourcerer. Far less in general on Comparative Geeks, so less of an issue.

        Liked by 1 person

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