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Trolling

Trolling is the act of incessantly and often anonymously harassing users of the Internet. It can range from basic name-calling and unpleasant “jokes” to direct threats and flagrant defamation of character. Trolling takes place mostly in forums, social media, and comment sections across the Internet, performed by trolls all around the globe. But it is not so easy to define a troll or their motives. Oftentimes a troll will have self-confidence or resentment issues and will try to force his iniquities on random strangers online. Other times they can be young people or just plain immature, and will find humor in verbally attacking an innocent person. Without a clear face or motive trolls are difficult to shutdown, as seen by the Yik Yak article by Johnathan Mahler in the New York Times . They are free to roam the Internet with a concealed or faux identity and torment users who are seeking no quarrel. This behavior is flat out unacceptable and is becoming more and more dangerous as the Internet continues to expand.

One example of how trolling can become extremely harmful is GamerGate, which is well documented by Casey Johnston in her article in “Ars Techinca”. It began in 2014 as a campaign of aggressive harassment against women for focusing on issues of sexism and progressivism in video game culture. It grew to single out developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu as well as feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian. The trolls involved were able to organize their attacks through the #GamerGate hashtag and troll anonymously through platforms such as 4chan and Reddit. Altogether they inflicted serious mental and emotional damage on these key female figures, and continue to pester them with name-calling and threats to them and their families. With no official leaders or spokespeople, GamerGate becomes very difficult to stop and punish. Since many involved remained anonymous they were able to get away with their evil actions, and that is a dangerous sign of encouragement for other trolls. If they can say whatever they want on the Internet without repercussions, I don’t trust them to be restrained by some sort of moral compass alone. I believe widespread defamation should not be allowed just anywhere on the Internet. It is impossible to sensor everything but I understand that there may be certain forums where it is best to let trolls exist and get out their vices while blocking their content on many others. But when trolling begins to single out individuals like GamerGate did, then this is cyberbullying and is outright unacceptable. It is much easier to censor this content and single out users who are negatively singling out others. If we at least attempt to prevent the gross amounts of trolling and cyberbullying taking place on the Internet, we are sending a message that this behavior is not acceptable and we refuse to look the other way while this type of evil occurs.

Lastly, I believe that sharing positive dialogue and creative ideas online is a good thing, but only in the right forum. In many situations, Internet discussions can begin as a positive sharing of ideas but quickly devolve into back and forth bickering. While you may have joined a discussion in hopes of enlightening fellow users, it is unlikely that ideas will ever change in this setting. It is important to discern the locations on the Internet meant for fruitful discussion and those meant for nonsensical memes and trolls.

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