Can We Stop Calling Them Trolls Now?

I’m getting a bit tired of seeing the term “troll” used for people who abuse and dehumanize others on the internet. A troll is someone who says outrageous things they don’t believe just to get people upset, but a lot of the people we call trolls are just plain vile human beings. Here’s a perfect example:

Twitter users have expressed outrage at a troll’s use of Twitter’s promoted tweets to insert abuse targeting trans people into their feeds.

The troll account, pretending to be that of Australian activist and feminist campaigner Caitlin Roper, posted abuse and graphic images and promoted a tweet using Twitter’s paid-for native advertising service which called for trans people to kill themselves…

The account was suspended within hours by Twitter after multiple reports of abuse. The promoted tweet was also pulled from the service.

Roper, the activist whose account was impersonated, has been targeted for abuse before, including cloned accounts pretending to be her and making derogatory sexual comments.

She has been targeted by various “men’s rights groups” including a group called A Voice For Men. At this stage it is not known who was behind the troll account on Twitter.

Does it even matter whether whoever did this actually believes that trans people should kill themselves? Not a bit. Whether they believe it or not, they are absolute fucking scum and they need to be stopped. If you spend your time pretending to be a vile asshole on line, you aren’t pretending — you really are a vile asshole. So let’s call them what they are.

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  • eric

    I agree the article is using ‘troll’ in an overbroad manner but I don’t think its indicative of a wider abuse of the term. think most people would recognize that the behavior they describe is more accurately termed sockpuppeting, not trolling.

  • Modusoperandi

    Frankly, I’m a little stunned that there’d be awful people on the internet. I’d have thought that the mix of anonymity and distance would breed only good things.

  • Die Anyway

    I’m guessing that there are a great number of people who are unfamiliar with fishing and do not know what trolling means. I suppose for them it just means behaving like a ‘troll’ (an ugly, mean, half-human creature that lives in dark, wet places) rather than a technique for presenting a lure to a fish in hopes of eliciting a bite.

    In a couple of years, through usage, they will redefine the word.

  • doublereed

    But trolls ARE vile human beings. I don’t understand your problem with the term.

    I’d say they’re trolls whether they’re sincere or not.

  • ThorGoLucky

    MRA: Men’s Righteous Abuse

  • Synfandel

    …but a lot of the people we call trolls are just plain vile…

    Not all trolls are bad people. Take Sergeant Detritus, for example.

  • llewelly

    the war over the “correct” meaning of “troll” was lost in the early 2000s. Since then, by far the most common use has been “someone I can’t get along with on the internet”.

    But that is something of a distraction here … here the important issue is that someone is engaging in bigoted harassment, and it should be called harassment, regardless of the meaning of the word “troll”.

  • NS Alito

    #6 Synfandel “Not all trolls are bad people. Take Sergeant Detritus, for example.”

    Don’t salute!

  • Christopher

    Trolling was the internet equivalent of being a windup merchant, usually deliberately disagreeing with people with absurdly strong opinions. Its highly entertaining. The application of the term to harassers is unfortunate, a harrasser is just that and should be called as such.

  • Matrim

    Yeah, the term has almost totally lost it’s original meaning (trolling as in “trolling for fish”), and I don’t much like it. However, language evolves, and there’s not much one can do about it.

    behavior they describe is more accurately termed sockpuppeting

    Not really, sockpuppeting isn’t imitating someone, it’s creating accounts (in addition to a primary account) to comment or “like” a topic to make it seem more popular (or, occasionally, more divisive)

  • brive1987

    Speaking of vile arseholes. Stollznow has said we should not believe any claims that Radford harrassed her – and she has requested all such posts be taken down. When does network wide housecleaning begin?

  • Silentbob

    Nice of slimepitter brive1987 to drop by and demonstrate actual trolling.

    Off-topic? Check. Antagonistic? Check. Disingenuous? Check.