Image via Flickr user christoph.grothaus

For as long as there have been blogs, there have been trolls. A troll is a commenter who hangs around your blog for the sheer purpose of annoying and goading you and your other readers.

Trolling is quite different from merely being critical. Obviously, not all of your readers are going to agree with you about everything, but a troll’s comments will rarely have anything to do with the topic at hand. For example, say you review a certain book you like. Someone might comment that she thinks it is an overrated work and doesn’t understand why anyone likes it. That’s not trolling. Even a comment as abrupt as “I’ve always hated that book” isn’t trolling, because, while it’s not particularly interesting, it’s at least a response to what you’ve written.

A troll, on other hand, is not actually trying to express anything. Rather, a troll is seeking to provoke a reaction from you or your other readers.

A troll might comment that she thinks books are stupid altogether and anyone who reads probably hates babies and puppies. She might comment that you yourself are a moron and it’s amazing anyone reads your blog at all. She might even comment in this way on all of your posts, day after day. Whether a troll’s comments are abusive or whether they are just irrelevant and annoying, they derail the conversation that you are trying to start. They can even intimidate other readers from participating in your comment thread.

For these reasons, it’s best to simply delete comments by trolls. Sometimes it might be tempting to get into an argument with one, but you will find that any response, no matter how shaming, will merely encourage the troll. Hence the expression “don’t feed the troll.”

Sometimes disagreements between regular readers can turn into trolling. For example, say that Susan is a vegetarian who often comments on your recipe site. Say that Bob is another commenter, and in one comment thread, he and Susan get into an argument about the morality of eating meat. While this is not trolling, if Bob continues to pop up in the comments of every post after that to try to pick a fight with Susan about vegetarianism, then he’s trolling. Ultimately, it’s your blog, so it’s up to you to decide when a particular commenter has become a bully.

You have complete control over your comments here at You can set your Discussion Settings so that every comment users submit must be emailed to you for moderation before appearing on your blog. If you’d like to be more lenient than that, while still exerting some control, you can choose that a comment author must have a previously approved comment; otherwise, the comment will be sent to you for moderation.

What if you do not want to have to moderate all of your comments yourself, but you’ve noticed that your commenters seem to get into a heated argument every time someone brings up football? You can add the term “football” to your comment moderation queue. Then, every time a comment is submitted with “football” anywhere in it, you’ll have to approve it before it appears on your site.

If you then decide that you’re so sick of the football arguments, you don’t even want to see them at all anymore, you can add “football” to your comment blacklist. Then, any comment with that term in it will be marked as spam. Be careful with the blacklist, though–it matches inside words, so any comment with “foot” or “ball” in it will likewise be spammed.

You can even edit your readers’ comments themselves, for grammar and punctuation, or to remove profanity if you have a G-rated blog. Be careful not to misrepresent your readers, though. If you get creative with editing their comments, you will lose their trust and probably their readership.

While you shouldn’t put up with abusive behavior from your commenters, be careful not to go too far in the other direction, either. If your commenters suspect that you never allow comments that disagree with your point of view or criticize your posts in any way, they might become less interested in engaging on your blog. Remember, the goal is always to keep the discussion going!

Have you ever had a problem with a troll? How did you handle it?

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  1. Trolls seem to exist in all realms of the internet where there is user-generated content. I have my comments set to always wait for approval. I like to make sure that the comments I approve for my blog will be professionally written and respectful to all. Thanks for the post, Elizabeth!


  2. Interesting – I didn’t know you could tag words to the comments moderation queue. Last month I wrote a piece about bucket list activities to do in Montreal. I had idea that there were coalitions against the use of horse drawn carriages and in a short matter of time, I felt like I was getting hate mail! I was torn – do I permit these comments as they are people’s points of view, or do I trash them? In the end, I approved a few as I am trying to maintain and open blog and communication, and put together a reply. The responses became rather personal, attaching me and for the first time in over a year, I felt like I was being cyber abused. I approved one more comment and then sent the rest to trash! The carriage rides were not the main subject of the blog and I felt that the people were missing the point of the post and were running away with it for their own views and personal politics. I don’t know if I was wrong in my decision, but like you said, it is my blog, and if they are trying to provoke the wrong messages, I felt I had to nip it in the bud!
    Here’s the link to the post – tell me if I was wrong? But it had to stop at the personal attacks!


  3. I have a strict rule on my blog: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. If that makes me less popular or means the “discussions” are shorter, that’s fine with me. I blog to share my opinions with any like-minded people out there, not to get into a debate about it. My blog, my rules. Haven’t had any problems with trolls thus far.


  4. Have I EVER had such a problem!

    I’ll say!

    One dear commenter, with whom I had previously enjoyed great friendly dicussions, one day just decided to flip. I woke up to a heated attack on my site, with Ms Troll calling my COMMENTERS all SORTS of names not acceptable on my g-site.

    She was really angry with me, but directing her outlashings against my commenters. Basically, anyone who agreed with me was a target. I asked a few trusted sources, some of whom had addressed this very issue recently, and received firm but blessedly clear instructions.

    I was forced to put her under moderation, which I totally hated to do.

    Then I removed her attacks and one other reply from another commenter — one that made no sense without the other missing parts — and inserted a comment to that effect, plus an explanation that my commenters must be safe from attack at my sight and that I would protect them.

    I replied to Ms Troll privately that she might want to restate her ideas in a different way, since she’d had time to cool off.

    WELL. Umm — not.

    I mean, she exchanged the blatant foul language for euphemistic restatements of the same bile and posted again, discovering she was being moderated, and then REALLY hit the ceiling, switching to facebook to try and drum up some reinforcements.

    Two of her fb friends commented on my site, politely, that they thought I was totally wrong, but that they also thought I did not deserve being attacked as I was. They said nothing to any who agreed with me.

    I replied to these that anyone on earth is totally welcome to disagree with me or any of my commenters, in fact, that I welcome debate as a trained debater, but that the normal rules of civility would operate on my site and that no one will attack any other commenters on my site.

    My commenters are safe.

    My site, my rules.

    The next day I posted an entire post on the subject of all my commenters always being safe. Ms Troll posted one more diatribe, which I did NOT forward to the public, and then unsubscribed. She probably still does read, but does not comment any more. Also, she totally changed her gravatar image.

    I miss the old image, a reminder of a lady I enjoyed and welcomed — in another reality, it seems.


  5. Reblogged this on IamOkema and commented:
    Dealing with Trolls on your Blog. Great post here from another blogger on lurking/trolling [reading your entire blog but saying nothing relevant to the topic…just harassing everyone because…well, they have no life.] – too bad most of mine are on ‘the other side’ of the family.


  6. I haven’t had trouble with trolls, which surprises me considering some of the content I’ve put out. I’ve encountered far more trolls on message boards and the comments sections of news articles than here. But I think it stings a lot more when harsh criticism comes from someone you know, than when it comes from some stranger on the internet.


  7. So what’s wrong with eating meat? Couldn’t you pick another example. Me and many other meat eaters are offended. Meet me out back we’ll settle this geek to geezer. (Could this considered trolling?)


  8. I was accused of trolling some time ago.

    I was somewhat surprised. Is trolling disagreeing with someone’s post? I could accuse a load of my readers of that, but I don’t and we continue to disagree.

    I don’t think any of my readers try to goad me, my readers, or annoy me. Some may annoy me, but they always get a reply without being accused of trolling.

    So to be told I was trolling on someone’s blog (I actually missed the point because it didn’t occur to me) and then to get a private email accusing me of that was pretty insulting.

    Criticism and trolling are not the same, and if bloggers can’t take criticism they shouldn’t blog. I’ve backed off one of my blogs at one point because of difference of opinion but I never considered they were trolls.

    One of my blogs has a lot of vegetarian posts. Most people argue with me, because for some reason my readers don’t have the same point of view as me. C’est la vie.

    I also write feminist posts. My readers aren’t feminist. Regular readers on both roughseas and Clouds – hopefully – know they can say what they want. I appreciate my readers being able to voice their different opinion. (Got to reply to one right now who totally disagreed with me!)

    I’ve had trolls in the past on Blogger. Not not on WP. A better community.

    There is a fine line however, in the judgement of the author about what is trolling and what is genuine discussion or, heaven forbid, criticism.

    Thought provoking and a good read. Wonder what other comments you will receive?


  9. Ignoring the troll seems to be the best advise, but even there I made a lot of mistakes in my previous blog- raising to the bait and making them happy… I think I have learnt the lesson now…