Troll

trollface

trolling

In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion. In addition to the offending poster, the noun troll can also refer to the provocative message itself.

The verb troll originates from Old French troller, a hunting term. The noun troll, however, comes from the Old Norse word for a mythological monster. In modern English usage, the verb form of troll refers to a fishing technique of slowly dragging a lure or baited hook from a moving boat, waiting for fish to strike. The word also evokes the trolls portrayed in Scandinavian folklore and children’s tales, where they are often creatures bent on mischief and wickedness.

The contemporary use of the term is alleged to have first appeared on the Internet in the late 1980s, but the earliest known example is from 1992. Early non-internet related use of trolling for actions deliberately performed to provoke a reaction can be found in the military; by 1972 the term trolling for MiGs was documented in use by US Navy pilots in Vietnam.

The most likely derivation of the word troll can be found in the phrase ‘trolling for newbies,’ popularized in the early 1990s on Usenet. Commonly, what is meant is a relatively gentle inside joke by veteran users, presenting questions or topics that had been so overdone that only a new user would respond to them earnestly. These types of trolls served as a practice to identify group insiders.

A concern troll is a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the user claims to hold. The concern troll posts in web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group’s actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed ‘concerns.’ The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group.

Regardless of the circumstances, controversial posts may attract a particularly strong response from those unfamiliar with the robust dialogue found in some online, rather than physical, communities. Experienced participants in online forums know that the most effective way to discourage a troll is usually to ignore it, because responding tends to encourage trolls to continue disruptive posts — hence the often-seen warning: ‘Please do not feed the trolls.’

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