The 7 Types of Internet Trolls We Wish Would Move to Arizona
So, Arizona wants to outlaw trolling. Good luck with that, nubes. Specifically, House Bill 2549 — which has passed the state’s legislature and is awaiting signature or veto from Governor Jan Brown — reads, "It is unlawful for any person, with intent to terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend, to use ANY ELECTRONIC OR DIGITAL DEVICE and use any obscene, lewd or profane language or suggest any lewd or lascivious act, or threaten to inflict physical harm to the person or property of any person."
Media Coalition, a watch group for first amendment rights, posted a letter to the state’s governor on the issue (read it in its entirety here). In the letter, the group asks that Governor Brown veto the bill because, they argue, "[w]hile protecting people from harassment is a worthy goal, legislators cannot do so by criminalizing speech protected by the Constitution. All speech is presumptively protected by the First Amendment against content-based regulation, subject only to specific historic exceptions." And they’re exactly right. It’s impractical (and unconstitutional, and a bit too Thought Police-y) for Internet speech to be illegal, especially if it’s merely the type that’s used to annoy. Don’t Feed The Trolls usually works pretty well, and rarely does it involve the police.
And the story comes at a good time. This week also gave us Samantha Brick, a British writer that’s being riffed on, demonized, and trolled to the hilt over her Daily Mail article regarding her life struggles with being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And the popular site Jezebel seems to think, in the wake of Samantha BrickGate, that the Daily Mail is trolling us all. From an article in Wednesday’s Jezebel posts: "I can’t help but feel like the Daily Mail is playing a trick on her [Samantha Brick]. The Daily Mail is a large-scale professional troll, and this article is troll-bait of the highest order — a master stroke of carefully orchestrated misogyny. It basically screams, ‘HERE, TROLLS!’" And you may have been the unwilling victim of trolling on Reddit, 4Chan, or even on Facebook. And honestly (especially if you hang out on 4Chan or Reddit), who’s to say that you aren’t a troll yourself?
While trolling shouldn’t be illegal, there are some criminally bad types of trolls on the Internet. But with so many options to mute, ban, and opt out, it’s doubtful that any measure as Draconian as banning bullies will remain a law for long. It does, however, warrant an investigation into the whys and hows of the Internet troll. First things first: trolling is rude. And it’s mean. And annoying. And, often, inevitably fruitless. Just as there are so many ways to be uncool, there are so many ways to be an Internet troll. In Brazil, trolls are referred to as pombos, which comes from pombos enxadristas, which means "chessplayer pigeons." This term comes from the popular Portugeuse adage, "arguing with fulano is the same as playing chess with a pigeon: the pigeon defecates on the table, drop the pieces and simply fly, claiming victory." Such is the process of the Internet troll. On today’s forums, up-votes and down-votes can sometimes change a troll’s behavior, but there are a lot of personalities that just don’t quit — regardless of the reaction.
What gives, trolls? Why do you have to be so anti-? Your behavior is attention-seeking at its best, and putrid vitriol at its ugliest. And even though we don’t want you to act like that, and certainly prefer not to have you around — we don’t want you to be illegal. But if that’s going to happen, we hope that this typology will have all you trolls considering moving to the great desert state of Arizona. Scotsdale, Phoenix, Tuscon, wherever — if Internet trolling becomes illegal there, these are the seven types of people that should seriously relocate.
Are you having a great day? Well, we’ve got the solution for you. YouTube.com is the web’s leading video sharing site, and has become a hugely popular search engine. Comments on the videos are those of an open forum, with very little moderation (especially in the pre-YouTube-by-Google days), and are generally a web junkie’s daily reminder that everyone on the Internet (so, pretty much everyone in the world) is grossly ignorant, contributing to global idiocy in scads, and generally sucks really, really hard. Reading public YouTube comments is guaranteed to kill any hope that you had left for humanity, and has proven itself to be an effective activity for taking that optimism of yours down a notch or two.
If you’ve got any concept of ROI, you’re clearly not a Sock Puppeteer. These people can’t actually have paying jobs — they’re entirely too busy ruining everyone’s Internet fun and potentially having an extremely odd personality disorder. The Sock Puppeteer is a curious type of troll who creates several alternate, additional accounts on a commenting forum to flank their original trolling comment or argument with support. The fake accounts are called sock puppets, and they function as an army of affirmation around a certain troll’s spammy or counterproductive posts. A troll may have many sock puppets, creating a fake community of posters that agree with him. It’s all very Being John Malkovich meets Sybil of them, don’t you agree?
One of the most nauseating types of Internet trolls is The Hate Monger. This commenter blasts the Internet, and otherwise civil discussion, with hate speech. Be it sexist, racist, homophobic ("GAY!" is an oft-used trolling one-off), or otherwise, the Hate Monger reflects the ignorant dregs of humanity. You’ll see them everywhere, but particularly virulent is their presence on forums that children can easily read and those aimed at politicosocietal discussion. Hate Mongers ignore common courtesy, and often spell most non-off-color remarks with the accuracy of a home-schooled 10-year-old. In lieu of rattling off inflammatory epithets, maybe just watch the video of the late, great Christopher Hitchens on hate speech, below.
Prior to the Internet, "troll" garnered images of the Scandinavian mythological creature, a garish monster that lives under bridges and bothers the Billy Goats Gruff. And if you’ve heard of The Dead Kid Trolls, it’s not hard to see why the name fits. Alexis Pilkington was a high school girl that committed suicide in 2010, and she was cyberbullied after her death. Friends and relatives had to see comments like, "[s]he was obviously a stupid depressed — who deserved to kill herself. she got what she wanted. be happy for her death. rejoice in it" posted on public forums, as well as pictures that had been Photoshopped to include a noose. These types of trolls are certainly the worst; they’re extremely unsettling and counter to any healthy grieving process for a lost friend or child. Of the wretched trolls, these are the worst.
A special place in hell could be reserved for The Baiter — this troll has a serious case of superiority, and always an ulterior motive. Whether posting one-off comments or engaging in back-and-forths, The Baiter always wants to bring the discussion back to their wheelhouse. A Political Baiter, for example, will always turn the discussion back to politics — even if the original post is about pandas or the trials of wearing socks with sandals. It could be anything benign, and The Political Baiter will make comments about the "liberal media" or "liberal elite" or "anti-intellectual conservatism" that take the original content to a different (often inappropriate) contextual level. Not that discussion is bad, but The Baiter wants the discussion turned their way, and they’ll often make the hook just pretty enough to eat (read: respond to). Once you’ve bitten off their "in," The Baiter doesn’t quit. And doesn’t quit. And doesn’t quit. And if you still don’t understand what a troll is, this video is probably the best of the bunch:
Spambot Trolls might not even be people, but they crud up comments of otherwise civil discussions, and they do so all over the Internet. They paste text and links into comments that often lead to datamining bugs or dead-ends, and there’s not much rhyme or reason to their names, words, or links. The Spambot Troll is like an automated Baiter; they just waste energy and space, and sometimes provoke a reaction, though it’s hard to imagine that anyone takes their bait.
The IRL (that stands for In Real Life to all you AFK people) Troll is the type of person that acts like an Internet bottom-feeder in everyday life. Perhaps it’s someone that spends too much time in front of a glowing screen, or perhaps it’s just someone who burned their mother’s copy of Emily Post. These are the people that you’re not entirely sure should be at every single dinner party that you go to, and it’s getting a little strange that they’re always there. They have a comment for everything, and often a contrarian opinion that’s not well-reasoned enough to be respectful to the people or place hosting them. Often they are loud, and always they are sour. To them, it’s their principles, not commonly accepted guidelines of social interaction that guide their actions and lives. And often they exhibit this behavior online, as well. They dwell in all things off-topic, and they can also function as stalkers or fair-weather "friends." Oftentimes you find yourselves calling mutual acquaintances to discuss the illegitimate insanity of their latest Facebook status. Not always a harasser as much as an annoyance, The IRL Troll should stay off the Internet — and out of your face. And we hear that Arizona is lovely this time of year.