By Cynthia Caron
Internet trolls, cyber bullies, flamers. We have all heard of them and most of us have experienced the havoc they create online in forums and blogs. What makes them tick? How does one protect themselves from internet trolls? They all crave attention, so to be rid of a troll one has to simply ignore them.
Hard as it may, that is the only way to beat a troll. Many forums have features in which you can block them from following you. Trolls are very manipulative and crafty. Most possess a low self esteem and find extreme satisfaction in creating disruptions to civilized groups of folks. They strive to destroy what others are enjoying. Many times they will start off as a "regular" poster and befriend all they can. They will soon begin to start talking behind backs of other members and then move forward with false accusations of one member against another.
Ironically, those that are the most common trolls are adults. After creating negative atmospheres, they will sit back and enjoy the ruckus that they've created. It's very common to note that trolls will also create multiple screen names and correspond with themselves as the "good person" vs. "the bad troll." This is done to manipulate others to befriend the "good person" who is calling out the troll's behavior and in turn enables the troll to have someone to argue with when others have begun to ignore him or her. This is in nearly all forums and invariably someone innocent will befriend the "good person" and then they will become the target of the "bad troll." It's their method to spin a web and drag good people into their web of deceit and destruction. Many forums have completely shut down due to numerous members who feel threatened by troll behaviors and leave the forum.
The absolute best way to avoid this situation is to truly ignore the trolls. Do not call out their bad behavior. Stay away from private message conversations in which one wants to discuss other member's personalities. Should you become the target of a troll completely ignore them and do not respond to their postings.
Many will research the internet to find out as much personal information about you as possible, such as how many children you have or even your home address, and will use that in a post to drag you into responding hoping to entice an argument. I've seen trolls who have impersonated other forum members by creating names in other forums to damage the reputation of the original person that they targeted. If you encounter a troll, put them on ignore, do not respond and report them to forum moderators.
Many forums have ways to boot those that cause disruptions, unfortunately, many may find their way to trolling back to a forum. They are certainly unwelcomed, yet an unavoidable aspect which occurs online. Surprisingly, it's also not always considered a criminal act. They will hide behind the 1st Amendment which prevents law enforcement from being able to take action, unless a minor child is the target or a person has been threatened with actual bodily harm.
However, what do you do when one reaches beyond the computer and creates malicious havoc in your personal life? You can't simply ignore them when they invade your home telephone or postal mailbox. Those who have been the targets of such malevolent evil behaviors are usually families that are already stressed by grief or of a traumatic experience and the most cruel of people will actually target those who are in vulnerable states of mind.
From those who have lost children in car accidents to parents and loved ones of those killed at war are targets of devious people who, like trolls, obtain satisfaction and delight in just knowing they've done an awful act to another, even when they are not present to see the damage they've created to another person's spirit. They are actually cowards, many have very few people in their lives and obviously have no constructive outlets. Many get away with it as they are difficult to identify. It's very sad, but true. Those that do these venomous acts merely do it for the thrill of causing disruption and sadness to other human beings. Somewhere in their lives they skipped the "do unto others" lesson.
One of the very first conversations I have with a family member of a missing loved one is to tell them to absolutely, positively do not put their personal phone number, email address or cell phone as a point of contact on a missing person's poster. While those who are seeking missing loved ones want to be able to be accessible, with every means possible, it will cause unnecessary stress as nearly every case I've handled in which a private contact was posted the family would invariably receive awful calls. People will phone and say their loved one is deceased, or will tell the family their loved one is fine and with them and that they left purposely because "you treated them rotten." These are very mild examples compared to what I've heard families have experienced.
Recently, the Phoneix Police Department's Silent Witness program has offered a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the identification of a person who is mailing letters to homes in Arizona of young girls. Some as young as 8 years old. The alarming letters address the children by name and includes sexual connotations and vulgarity. Due to the nature of the letters, and the ages of the children addressed, criminal charges will be filed. First, however, he or she must be identified. Thus far detectives have not been able to identify the writer through collected DNA with registered sex offenders, unidentified sex offenders or inmates. The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information may contact Phoenix police at 602-262-7626 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.
Should you become a victim of a malicious anonymous person, there are actions that you can take depending on the severity of their acts.
· The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has an excellent program to report victims of child sexual exploitation. Simply go to http://www.missingkids.com MySpace works very closely with NCMEC and they now have a special link to automatically report a site to the NCMEC if the user is exploiting children or is suspicious in nature as a site to entice children into pornography.
· Most police stations, even in small towns, now have Cyber Units that you can file reports if you've been threatened, stalked or harassed in a serious nature. They will not accept cases of vulgar language or insinuating threats because they would be overwhelmed. However, any bodily threat, stalking or continued harassment should be reported.
· The Internet Crime Complaint Center was established between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center. Their link is: http://www.ic3.gov *Since its inception, the IC3 has received complaints crossing the spectrum of cyber crime matters, to include online fraud in its many forms including Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) matters, Computer Intrusions (hacking), Economic Espionage (Theft of Trade Secrets), Online Extortion, International Money Laundering, Identity Theft, and a growing list of Internet facilitated crimes. (*taken from the ic3.gov site)
· An excellent site to learn more about Internet Trolls is located at the following link: http://www.flayme.com/troll/
· Lastly, keep copies of any threats, stalking or negative emails that you may be receiving. Document by screen saving public postings that are threatening. Depress your CTRL key + Print Screen key, simultaneously, to copy screen. Open word doc file, or email body and depress the CTRL+ V key simultaneously to paste. Email to yourself and save it in a folder, or save the document file to your computer.