Friday, 29 November 2013

Cyber Bullies and Internet Trolls: The Devil is Online

Does internet trolling sound like "a little bit of harmless fun" to you? Is cyber bullying "not really hurting anyone"? Is it all jokes? See why it is not.

Before the internet, I am sure, a troll meant something else entirely. Trolls used to be those brutish, hairy, ugly and smelly creatures found in folklore (Scandinavian, mostly, but J.K. Rowling fans would not be alien to the name) and they are often featured in fantasy stories till date.

Then the internet came, and trolls and what they do (which is “trolling”) have become a cultural phenomenon, to use the term loosely. People born a lot later – a couple decades before the year of the internet – may have trouble understand who an internet troll is, and what he does, so
definitions are in order.

First, what is a troll? According to Urban Dictionary, a troll is “One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark off such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks (i.e. 'you're nothing but a fanboy' is a popular phrase) with no substance or relevance to back them up as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue.”

In the first week of August, a man named David Smith cried to the world, telling us how his daughter had been driven to kill herself because of internet trolls. Apparently, Hannah Smith (his daughter) had logged on to an anonymous website called Ask.fm, where you can ask questions without anyone knowing you were the one who did, and asked for help with her eczema.

Well, she got help killing herself. Internet trolls and cyber bullies are in the same pack, and this set of people asked her to kill herself, even suggesting that she hang herself.

She did.

Even after her death, these trolls went on to write on her Facebook wall that she was a coward, and called her other hurtful names.

David Smith himself says: “when you are sitting behind a computer screen, you can say whatever you want and there’s no comeback. But these trolls need to realize that they are affecting people’s lives in the most horrific ways imaginable.”

But do trolls really mind?

A website called Popular Science, today, shut down their comments section because of internet trolling. A website that is committed to the dissemination of intellectually stimulating discussions and debates, overrun by the nonsense that is trolling, shut down their comments section. Some people argue that Twitter is the biggest den of trolling right now (I can’t but agree).

What is being done to control trolling? Not much, really. Google has started moderating their YouTube comments section, and Twitter has been forced to include a “report tweet” option in their website.

A woman, Caroline Criado-Perez, campaigned for the printing of new UK banknotes with a woman’s face on them, and she faced threats of rape and abuse from email and twitter trolls.

Would you say a “report tweet” button for trolls is effective deterrent for them? One is inclined to disagree.

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