Jargon Busting No. 11 – Trolling


This morning as I eased into my Sunday morning, I lazily had logged in twitter to see what the world was up to. I noticed a lot of tweets from @MrBarrymore, Michael Barrymore an English entertainer. Barrymore was retweeting lots of tweets that had been sent to him, they were messages of support. There were so many tweets that I couldn’t count them. I investigated further and discovered Barrymore was being trolled. 

Trolling is when someone posts online a comment online or a tweet with the sole aim of starting an argument or causing distress or trouble. It seems that some people like to deliberately provoke others into an argument and get a kick out of knowing they have upset someone, ideally they will upset lots of people.

Someone, and I won’t given him any more publicity by naming him and according to the trolls profile it is a him, was sending abusive tweets to Barrymore and others. Some of Barrymore’s followers were questioning why he was engaging with the troll and were encouraging him to ignore the vile comments. Barrymore tweeted “The only reason I retweeted the likes of @(name of troll) is to prove that regardless of all the publicity @twitter have done nothing”.

The advice usually given when dealing with trolls is ‘don’t feed the trolls’, which means don’t respond, don’t let them know you are upset or that they are getting to you. 

But in this case Barrymore was trying to drown out the negative noise created by the troll with positive tweets from fans and supporters. And whilst I’m not expert I would assume it also felt good to be able to show the troll, and the world, that you are not intimidated and that you have support.

There has been much coverage in the last couple of weeks of trolls on Twitter both here in Australia and overseas and the way Twitter has dealt with them (or not). Many of the trolls made very explicit threats of violence against women. Twitter was attacked by users and the media for not dealing with the trolls, by not providing a speedy and effective way to report trolls. Facebook has a report abuse button and so do most forums and other social media platforms and if they don’t I’m sure they will do soon.

Twitter was criticised for not being easy to contact and there have been reports that they are slow to cooperate with law enforcement. The criticisms also included the fact that Twitter was incredibly slow in deleting accounts and blocking individuals from creating more accounts so they could continue trolling.

Twitter has finally added a ‘Report Tweet’ button on the iPhone app and have announced they will be adding a similar button on the website and Android app ‘soon’.

It will be interesting to see now that people can more easily report trolls if the response from Twitter will improve with faster removal of offensive material and better cooperation with law enforcement. 

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