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Perennial Favorites: How to Starve a Troll

Your blog is your space, and you get to define what behavior is acceptable — and not acceptable. This great advice from in-house Miss Manners Elizabeth is worth a second read.

troll

Image via Flickr user christoph.grothaus

Your blog is your space, and you get to define what behavior is acceptable — and not acceptable. This great advice from our in-house Miss Manners, Elizabeth Urello, is worth a second read.

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. God knows I’ve had enough trolls on my blog, people who are there merely to steal attention away with their links or put comments that ruin the content, It’s never ending pruning. Sigh!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! I’d never heard of these ‘trolls’ or come across them (fortunately). I’ve been blogging since november and I’ve only met nice people, I can’t even imagine that ‘trolls’ exist, but it’s obvious that they do, I suppose as in all walks of life, there are ‘nasty’ people around the www, too…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I delete trolls, but I also spam them. I want them to go away and stay away. One of the main reasons I started blogging and gave up reviewing on Amazon is that Amazon has no way to control trolls and I got hammered a few times. Took all the fun out of it. At least hear, on the rare times is has happened — I seem to far fewer trolls on WordPress than I had on Amazon — I’ve been able to knock them out of the box efficiently and permanently.

    I do NOT feed trolls. And past a certain point, I will start deleting commenters who want to have a long, complicated argument that no one else finds interesting. I do encourage such people to engage in an off-line dialog, but they don’t seem interesting in that. Maybe they ARE trolls after all.

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  4. Trolls have succulent meet, rich in nutrients, and with enough poison to kill off 99% of bacteria. If you’ve got a cold, a troll is a bonus. Feed the troll, then kill and digest it to speed up convalescence.

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  5. If I have had any trolls they’ve been kicked to spam automatically without me realizing that’s what they are. I’ve learned something with this post. Thanks.

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  6. Worse than trolls are those who go full-rant. I have a post about how sci-fi changed after 9/11 (here if anyone is interested). The point of the post is to show the criticisms of religion and extremism in general and how since that awful day it has become more acceptable to show the nasty things that go on in the name of religion.

    I have had at least a dozen conspiracy theorists commenting that I have been duped by the government yadda yadda yadda. They’re entertaining but ultimately add nothing so I just delete them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I luckily have had no personal experience with trolls but I’ve seen them all over the place. I’ve wondered why they put so much time and energy into negativity…I agree with you that the best way to deal with it is to ignore it!

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  8. Interesting post, I have learnt something today (just hope I never need to use it). Thanks for taking the time to enlighten us. And tell the trolls that there will be even bigger goat trit-trotting over their bridge! πŸ™‚

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  9. I don’t know why people waste their time trollings, it’s ridiculous and often hurtful.

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  10. Yes … I was called a troll by a man whose site I had been following, and with whom I disagreed on some point or other. He addressed me as ‘Mrs Troll’ twice. No idea what his problem was – no, that’s not strictly true: I strongly suspect that his problem was the common one of EE (enormous ego), and that he would not be disagreed with on his own site. I was very happy to leave him to it, but very far from happy to have been called a troll. In fact, enraged.
    So perhaps there is that aspect to be addressed here, too, Elizabeth ?

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      1. Indeed I am not, Lynne: and for this (_Β€_) to call me one has left a very bad taste in my mouth. I think I should have known better than to disagree about anything, now that I take another look at the site …

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  11. I’ve dealt with trolls on several occasions. I really have to fight an urge to engage with them. Typically, what they say is so moronic that it’s easy to expose how absurd their premise is. I realized, over time, that I wasn’t exposing anything, except myself to wasted time and energy. When I encounter trolls now, I ignore them. But, I have found a way to deal with the “particularly” annoying troll. If I encounter a persistent and obnoxious troll, and I’m feeling the need to “vent” a little, instead of arguing with them about what they said, I criticize the way they said it. I correct their grammar, usage and mechanics. I point out that the impact of their main premise: “If you like Enya your a monkey f______!!!” was lost because of their shoddy skills with the English language. I explain that the difference between “Your a…”and “You’re a…” . I tell them that, not only is it impolite and bad computer etiquette to type their comments all in caps, but, that it distracts the reader from their important message. I tell them that sweeping generalizations are not very convincing as an argument. I was an English major, so this is fun for me and it refreshes my memory on usage rules etc. I realize that, ultimately, it solves nothing. I know that I haven’t “enlightened” the troll by any means. What I did do was have a “go” at him without arguing about or even acknowledging the rude and outrageous content of the message. I know it’s a silly thing for me to do. But, for whatever reason, every time I’ve done that the troll vanishes.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello TP, first let me apologize for my late response. I just this moment saw your comment. Thank you for getting in touch. I’m glad you smiled. You were supposed to. I do every time I “indulge” myself.

        You have a very good question and a very valid point.

        When it comes to correcting the communication skills of anyone I know, basically, I don’t. My want to stop themselves up and I may inwardly cringe, but I never correct anyone’s grammar directly, especially in a group discussion of any kind. People become embarrassed and offended when their manner of speech is criticized. They will, as you said, “grump” at you.Some may never speak around you again. Some will avoid you all together. I have learned this from experience. Only if someone wants to improve their communication skills, and specifically asks for my help, (or if it’s a young person that I know who is new to GUM) will I offer them alternative ways express themselves. What I do try to do in the “face-to-face” scenario, is speak as well as I can, use the appropriate word choice “gone” vs “went” for example and try to lead by example, so to speak.

        That being said, when it comes to “Trolls” you bet it angers them to be criticized in a way that they cannot respond to. But, more importantly, it diminishes them. Trolls are all about saying hurtful, demeaning and outrageous things to shock and offend. They do this in the hopes that whoever is reading their “comments” will get so enraged or disgusted that they will lose their composure and lash out in return. When you do that, they’ve essentially won the battle, because you have agreed to their terms. It doesn’t matter if what you write back to them makes perfect sense, because they don’t make sense and they know it. They have no intention of making any comment of value about the subject at hand. In many cases, they don’t even know what the “real” subject is.They just want someone to exchange nasty remarks with, the more derogatory the better. So they attack and hope that you’ll retaliate.As I mentioned, it’s easy to expose the content of what they’re saying as ludicrous, but they already know that it is. What they don’t like is not being able to respond in kind, because they have nothing to say to defend themselves. The wind is taken right out of their sails when that kind of deficiency is pointed out, in a comment thread in front of other people. The most that they can do is try to say “you think you’re smart” but, as I also mentioned, they never come back to thank me for their English lesson. They just go poof!!

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  12. I’ve only had one troll who commented under different handles from different IP addresses (but I know it’s the same person). I used to have a star rating on my page and in one evening this person went through all my posts and gave them a one star rating (at least 10 times for each post) so I just dropped the star rating. This person was very persistent. I never posted their comments. The great thing about WP and the way I have my discussion settings set up is that these comments go straight into moderation. This troll hasn’t bothered me now for about three months, and I think it’s because I completely ignored them.

    I’m interested in the ability to edit comments and have always wondered about the legality of this and if anyone has ever used it for anything other than correcting typos …

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  13. I totally delete troll comments if I have the ability to. Some sites do not allow it but I am grateful to WordPress for giving us the ability to control the comments that come in so we don’t allow offensive or trollsome (not a real word but fun to say) comments to plague our blogs. I think it also helps force people to be wise about what they comment on blogs. There are opinions but there is also just being plain mean.

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  14. Thank you for this interesting topic. I read word by word. Learnt a new word today. TROLL please do not come to my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I’ve never had too many problems with trolls.. but spam??? I’m seriously thinking of changing from WordPress because of it.. It’s ridiculous.. even when I’ve closed comments on a post, I still get spam on that post.. Good advice with trolls though.. best not to give them any attention.

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  16. Hi Elizabeth, I am new to blogging. The world has changed so much, we now have to worry about Trolling. You write beautifully. I think they are jealous of you.

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  17. I ended up deleting my first blog. There was this guy who would always make crass, sexual comments. He thought it was funny because I am a sexual assault survivor.

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  18. I am thinking the ratio of troll to good reader must be about 20/1 and since I hover around the 10-12 range on a good day I must be missing them altogether. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the advice should one pop up.

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  19. Trolls are idiots, pure and simple. They take precious time out of their day just to stir stuff up on the Internet with people whom they’ll more likely than not never meet in the real world simply to prove a point…and all from behind the safety and security of their computers at that. People are just better off blowing them off, in my opinion. Why bother giving them any sort of attention at all, seeing as that’s what most of them are looking for in the first place?

    Just my two cents, though…

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  20. Thanks for this. I don’t have any real commentary going on on my blog yet, but it’s nice to have a better idea of what the options are for the settings.

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  21. I’m only new to blogging but haven’t had any problems like this. Yes this is good advice and the term comes to mind ‘don’t poke the snake’. It’s better not to comment or get into arguments with others over nothing, otherwise people won’t be able to distinguish who the fool is.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I never have troll visiting my wordpress….wait, I just remember I do used to have some of them. For some reason there is only 1 post of mine that got some popular it generated comment that I have no idea what it ‘s about. At first I reply [with smile] , then I ignore/delete the comment then I got so feed up I close comment on that post. It have more than 90 comment anyway [it’s actually sad, since I have a lot post that have 0 comment LOL ] so if anyone need to find a solution they can just read the comment. [I blog mainly about tutorial stuff etc]
    Spam on the other hand is so obvious that I can’t help but laugh at them, and I always waiting for them so I can have some laugh :))

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