An Internet troll is someone who posts offensive, controversial, or divisive material on an Internet community. Trolls are an unfortunately common occurrence on many communities across the Internet, and there are various steps which can be taken to combat them. If you are currently struggling with an Internet troll, the best thing to do is to walk away, since trolls feed on attention, and they will usually disappear if they are ignored.
The evolution of the Internet troll was a slow process which began as computer users started to more widely adopt the Internet. At first, the term referred merely to someone who was “trolling” for a response or opinion, in the same way that fishing boats cast out large nets to troll for a catch. Over time, trolls grew more aggressive, and the term began to be used specifically to refer to someone irritating or hurtful. In this sense, a troll could be compared to the nasty creatures of Scandinavian mythology which are also known as trolls.
There are a number of different types of trolls. In the most classic case, a troll harasses an Internet community for a few weeks, posting contradictory opinions or statements on bulletin boards in an attempt to stimulate a response. Internet trolls are differentiated from people who genuinely wish to present a different viewpoint by their attitudes and aggressiveness; their goal is not to discuss a situation, but to frustrate the members of a discussion board. They often use fallacious arguments or attack the users of a site when they attempt to defend themselves from the troll's activities.
In some cases, a troll becomes a recurring figure who is well known by long-term members of a bulletin board. The individuals often tell newcomers to the community to ignore the troll, who may use various tactics to get a rise from newbies. In more serious cases, an Internet troll may try to drive a wedge through a community, often with the assistance of sock puppet accounts. A sock puppet is a fake identity which is used by someone who does not want to post under his or her regular name; some trolls have multitudes of sock puppets to make their side of an argument look like it has a large number of supporters.
Trolls can be extremely frustrating. Especially when trolls use hate speech and stalkerlike tactics, they can cross the line to being dangerous in addition to being aggravating. If you are the administrator of a website, there are a number of ways to deal with trolls, from IP blocking to reporting them to the authorities if they threaten users of your site. As a site user, the best response to a troll is no response, which will ultimately drive the Internet troll into moving on in search of fresh prey.