Thursday, 1 August 2013

Trolling, what is it and how can it be stopped? Waseem Saddique Marketing Investigates

Waseem Saddique Marketing covers the topic of trolling amid mounting concerns over the impact it has on individuals and businesses

‘Trolling’ has been branded as online bullying, with psychology experts defining those who ‘troll’ as being dark, menacing and devious in nature, solely intent on disrupting lives, business operations and generally causing misery, often with an end goal in mind.

Trolling is commonly associated with social media and is a wide spread problem that has infiltrated schools, the work place and society in general.

The problem of trolling has become so vast that it has now become a criminal offence. Social networking site Twitter has become infamous for trolling, with millions of Twitter users berated by trolls on a daily basis. Troll victims include celebrities, businesses and the general public.

What does trolling involve? 

Waseem Saddique comments: “Trolling is vile and involves individuals posting obscene comments about individuals, businesses and horrific events. Trolling can only be described as morbid and the fact of the matter is it can lead individuals to self-harm or worse still, commit suicide.”

Trolling involves posting defamatory or obscene comments with the intention of causing maximum hurt and upset. This can be done via various platforms including: newspaper columns, online forums and social networking sites, to name but a few.

What impact has trolling had?

Trolling has become a global phenomenon and whilst no official figures have been released regarding the number of suicides that have occurred as a result of trolling, a simple search engine investigation on Google typing in ‘trolling suicides’ brings up 13,900,000 results.

In its most severe form, trolling is deemed a criminal offence and in one of the first most high profile cases, which emerged in the state of Missouri in the USA in 2006, 13-year-old Megan Meier killed herself after being subjected to intense online bullying.

The perpetrator turned out to be next door neighbour, Lori Drew, a middle-aged woman who had set up a ‘MySpace’ profile in order to win – then later betray – Megan’s trust. Whilst Drew was acquitted amid concerns that a conviction would criminalise false online identities, it remains one of the first ‘trolling’ cases to go to trial.

One of the most high profile UK cases involved deceased celebrity, Jade Goody, whose family set up a memory page on Facebook in respect of  her passing. The page was ‘trolled’ by Colm Coss, who later received an 18 week prison sentence for posting obscene comments about the Big Brother star and other dead celebrities on the memory page.  

How can the trolls be stopped?

Twitter has already taken steps to ‘tackle the troll’, by introducing a ‘report abuse’ button, but is this enough?

Waseem Saddique comments: “Stopping the trolls is difficult as the issue of ‘free speech’ is compromised. However, across social networking sites in particular where evidence of ‘extreme’ trolling is identified, accounts are being suspended.”

Critics argue though that ‘trollers’ will simply set up new profiles in order to continue their tirade of abuse.

In a statement from Dr Bernie Hogan, research fellow at the Oxford Institute of the Internet, he said: “The best way to stop trolling is to report them and ignore the comments. Simple psychology suggests that if they are not provoking a response they will simply get bored and move on eventually getting phased out. There is already evidence to suggest that internet users are turning on the trolls.”

He added: “Even the law has become involved and prison sentences will certainly act as a deterrent. The idea that you can now get a jail sentence and a  criminal record for posting a comment serves as a warning. There’s no such thing as anonymous in a technological age. It’s inevitable that persistent ‘trollers’ will be identified and face prosecution in extreme cases.”