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troll

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 WordPress.com. 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. I wish that I could say that I don’t get triggered by trolls, but I do. I started comment moderating years ago because of them. I have certain psych issues (bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder) that make me very vulnerable to the feelings that happen when someone attacks me in a seemingly personal fashion. It’s very hard for me not to take things personally. I stopped blogging for quite some time because of it. These days I am not very open about the location of my blogs, and I don’t allow search engine bots to spider them. So if I haven’t revealed the location, random people do not find my work. It may be a bit over the top but it’s what I feel I have to do. It’s too bad a few asshats ruin an otherwise enjoyable experience.

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  2. I got banned from a major Conservative website for calling out my boss’s hedoni lifestyle (anonymously of course) and saying it was no wonder there weren’t another French revolution. The owner of the site said I was banned for being a troll. That was three years ago. Still says it if I try to comment! I had to look up troll to see what it meant. Some people are just REALLY touchy and call you a troll or shill if they don’t agree with you.Worst part was I had made some much loved contributions to the site prior to that. I learned I like free speech and don’t go there anymore!

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  3. I had a troll once. They visited and left the message “F you” and a fake email address on a post that was a standard book review. I just didn’t accept their comment. It insulted me at first but then I was kind of excited. My very first troll! It made me feel like a real blogger at last.

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  4. I had never heard of trolling until this post. I however have been the victim of a troll. As you said it was so tempting to respond to his rant, I however resisted and chose to delete his comment because it was a mere distraction.

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  5. I also encounter trolls mostly on twitter. first , I was suspended from my university because of criticism. I had tweeted that we lacked chairs , books and there was suspended for an academic year. There was massive social medi outcry for them to take me back but all to no avail. From that time I became very much known on social media and blogging latforms. anytime I comment on anything that people do not agree with they troll me with my suspension. Ignoring is the best way for sure

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  6. Ah yes. The lovable troll! It amazes me though how so many people still give them screen time. I suppose not everyone knows about trolls. So this article is great. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

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  7. Wow, a very popular topic. I get those crazy spam messages where the sentences don’t make any sense. No trolls for me though. I’m still trying to get a handful of comments on my posts. Usually get none.
    Thanks for the tips on how to deal with these situations.

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  8. This post is like a warning label saying “caution: contents of cup may be hot” on a mcdonalds coffee cup. It’s well written, but for anyone who uses wordpress I’m pretty sure this is common sense and knowledge lol.

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  9. I have mine set where comments have to be approved first. We have quite the troll problem at times. πŸ™‚

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  10. While I have used the comment moderation features you mention here, I have indeed had a problem with a troll and unfortunately I had to discontinue the blog because WordPress did not offer ENOUGH control to me as the author and owner of the blog.

    I think it’s great that WordPress provides these comment moderation features, but I find it unconscionable that you do not provide us, your clients, the option to block problematic or harassing readers. Other hosts offer I.P. banning, but at the very least we should have the option to delete e-mail subscribers if we do not wish them to have direct access to our blogs. I, of course, understand that a public blog is a public website and that people will find their way to it if they are determined to do so, but as the owner of the content of the blog, I should have the right and the opportunity to make it harder for them.

    It is because WordPress does not provide this control that I have had to discontinue the use of this blog. I never got my feet on the ground on another blog, and I am not being the least bit over-dramatic when I say that the loss of this outlet and the community I developed on this site has had a devastating effect on my life.

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    1. You should try to mark their comments as spam that way the next time it will probably automatically send it to your spam box so you don’t have to deal with it.

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      1. I did do that, and it helped. But that doesn’t change the fact that the person still has an e-mail subscription. If I add any new content to this site (haven’t in nearly a year) it goes right to his attention and starts the whole thing up again. All, I want is to be able to delete an e-mail subscription if I want or feel the need to. WordPress doesn’t offer this option, giving some ridiculous excuse about public websites.

        As I said, I understand that if it is open to the public and someone WANTS to come see what I’ve said, they’ll find their way to it, one way or another. That doesn’t mean I should HAVE to send it right to their inboxes. I simply can not understand any justification for taking THAT control out of the hands of WordPress’ direct customers, the bloggers.

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    2. Why should WordPress protect you and your work? Do you pay to use their software or do you well did you use the free service, I use the service for free and I self host, I don’t expect WordPress to jump to my aid when or if I have problems. As a self hoster I have access to my server and control panel and able to block people from even getting access through my server, which means they don’t get access to any of my 4 sites all hosted on the same account. normally the block is for 2 weeks and then lift the ban, by then the idiot hopefully got fed up and or their ip has changed. Some trolls use a proxy site which will route them through many, many fake ip addresses so they are difficult to block but your an adult deal with it.

      As I have said before, block the user, moderate your posts, block ip, use the plugins which are free and easy to install. whinging and whinging will not cure the troll problem, shutting down your blog played right into the hands of the troll. Don’t feed the troll no matter how much they annoy you, the more you moan the fatter the troll become, they love upsetting you.
      So stop moaning and go about your business and ignore the ignorant asses.

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      1. Simply stated, any service provider, regardless of the cost of the service, should always protect its clients.

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    3. Hi Riggledo – I’m sorry you had such a problem with a troll! It’s true that on WordPress.com, blog subscriptions are opt-in on the part of the subscriber. This is similar to how anyone can subscribe to a site’s RSS feed. However, you can always set your site to private at any point, and then only those you specifically invite can view or subscribe to your site.

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  11. I previously had it set where all the blogger had to do was have a previously approved comment. Well, some of the bloggers got too rowdy after they had been approved so I changed it to where each comment had to be approved. Of course, that means that those who are frequent supporters of the blog have to wait for their comments to be approved. But, there’s much more peace of mind not having to deal with trolls and other commenters who get real nasty.

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  12. Oh my god!! HOW CAN ANYONE READ THIS SHIT!? You all probably hate babies and puppies!!! ….. lol, just kidding…

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  13. There have always been trolls, but now that the internet has given them a forum for their spite they flourish like the proverbial green bay tree..

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  14. What do you do about a person who trolls you using search queries instead of comments (if you don’t have a self-hosted site)? My Pet Troll likes using abusive search queries, because he/she knows I can moderate comments. My stats are littered with abuse, and I’d really like to shut this avenue off. I am not feeding said troll, far as I know, anyway… Any ideas from you or the community at large?

    Assume I am not proficient in current web technology, and also visually impaired. Troll abeyance is a bit difficult as a result of both of these.

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    1. Hmm, do you mean that someone finds your site through Googling inappropriate things? If so, there’s nothing you can do about that, since anyone can Google whatever they want, but it also isn’t publicly visible to your readers or anything like that. People find my blog through some upsetting queries, too. πŸ™‚

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      1. That’s unfortunate. Yeah, I have terms in my blogs that some consider unfortunate, but I know that the same people are using those terms to irritate me. Much more subtle trollage than simply leaving a mean comment, so you have to give them poipnts for originality I guess. I suppose I must consider this a Lesson Learned. Hopefully my subsequent postings, though themselves potentially ribald, will not generate so much hate. Many thanks for the reply. Keep up the great work! πŸ™‚

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  15. I haven’t had any trolls. Probably because I’ve only been here a week and mostly just write about my art and my creative process. I hadn’t considered this issue, so I found this to be an interesting and informative read. New plan, handle this as I typically handle attention seeking behavior…IGNORE. Thanks for the insight.

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  16. There are days I’d be glad to have a troll. LOL!

    But not many.

    Maybe two days a month when I’m really bored and feel like discussing anything, even if it is pointless and argumentative.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. β€œTo live is to war with trolls.” ~ Henrik Ibsen
    When I started blogging, my family asked, “have you been trolled yet?”
    Good information for new bloggers and a good reminder for us all.

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  18. Hello Elizabeth,
    thanks for this helpful article. I especially appreciate your tipps about the discussion settings. This topic brought something to my mind, I wanted to ask for a long time and perhaps you have an answer for me: I have some trolls, who subscribed to my blognews. Every now and then, when I post something they don’t like, I have get comments from them, wich I delete. But I would like to end their subscribtion to my blog, so this nonsense has an end. But as far as I can see there is no chance, to delete subscribers you won’t have on your subscription-list. or ist there something I have overlooked?
    Thanks for reading my comment.
    JNj.

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