What is a Troll?
A Troll is a term for a person, usually anonymous, who deliberately starts an argument or posts inflammatory or aggressive comments with the aim of provoking either an individual or a group into reacting.
The phrase was coined after a fishing term meaning that basically they (the troll) attach their bait (their comment) and wait for others to bite.
Trolls often target high profile individuals in order to provoke reactions from their fans and followers. Often the recipient themselves isn’t the intended target.
Sites such as Facebook, online forums, blogging sites and newspapers comments have all become a platform and a stage to bombard people with insults, provocations and insulting threatening language. Trolling takes place where others can see the comments made. If you receive abusive, aggressive or mean messages privately that isn’t trolling – that’s bullying.
Trolls go to great lengths in making their messages as hurtful as they can so that the recipient of the messages that are sent believe and are convinced that what has been said is true. The difficulty is that most of the people who troll online send the messages anonymously and therefore makes it difficult to identify who the sender is.
Concern over internet vitriol is growing but supporters of trolling argue it’s about mischief and freedom of speech. But for many the ferocity and personal nature of the abuse verges on hate speech. In its most extreme form, it is a criminal offence.
The impact of trolling shouldn’t be underestimated – it has greatly affected the mental health of those targeted, and in some cases has even caused those persecuted to want to take their own lives – Jesy Nelson recently spoke publicly in her BBC documentary about just how badly the trolls affected her mental health.
The internet is governed in the UK by the Communications Act 2003 and also covers messages sent by text, e-mails and mobile phone calls. Under Section 127 of the Act, it states that it is an offence to send messages that are ‘grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.’