author-cyber-trollsIt’s recently been brought to our attention that even on sites created for our enjoyment and purchase of books, such as Amazon and Goodreads, internet trolls have reared their ugly heads. Forewarned is forearmed – we hope to spare you from the angst others have suffered at the hands of cyber trolls and “book bullies.”

What is a Cyber Troll?

A ‘Troll’ is a person who posts provocative or abusive messages to a newsgroup or message board, or in the case of author abuse, comments thinly disguised as reviews, with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.

Like any cyber-bully, the comments rarely relate to what the author writes, but instead focus on personal attacks, even threats, from “this author is a bitter old hag,” to “you (author) should just hang yourself and die.”

I wish I were exaggerating, but these are reports we’ve heard, and we’re not sharing names lest the authors in question suffer more needless taunting.

While cyber-stalkers concentrate on only one target, a cyber troll can have hundreds of targets, and can move from group to group creating more and more victims. Cyber trolls post false information, even to the point of setting up their own websites/blogs to further their rampages. They post allegations about their victims anywhere a site allows public contributions, and typically encourage other to join them in their harrassment.

How To Avoid Dealing With Cyber Trolls

1. Ignore postings that you suspect may be from trolls. Do NOT engage. This is called “feeding the troll.” If the email or post you read contains obvious false information or personal attacks, don’t answer; a cyber bully or troll will typically have more time than you to raise the stakes on their wild accusations, errant opinions, and outright threats. No matter how logical or reasonable you approach your answer, it will only produce a more irrational response. You will not win.

2. Put the suspected troll on your blocked or banned list.

3. If the troll is making personal attacks (i.e. to do with you, not your writing) on sites such as Amazon or Goodreads, report it to them immediately. Amazon is great about removing reviews that have nothing to do with the writing. Goodreads threads can be more difficult (there are so many) so make them AWARE as soon as you have evidence of trolling posts; ask that they be removed and that the perpetrators not be allowed to post.

4. Don’t be an “innocent bystander.” If it’s happening to someone else, report it, too. Standing by and reading the “drama” isn’t just in poor taste; it also makes it more likely the next victim could be you.

5. Complaints about all forms of harassment are accepted here: http://www.justice.gov/criminal/cybercrime/reporting.html and while harassment is currently only a misdemeanor, outright threats can be filed with the local FBI office.

When reporting cyber crime, remember to:

  • Save all communications for evidence. Do not alter them in any way.
  • Keep electronic copies, not just print-outs.
  • With any information that suggests a violent threat, contact law enforcement.
  • If the harassment continues, contact the harasser’s Internet service provider. The ISP is provided with instant messages. Most ISPs prohibit using their service for abusive purposes. An ISP can often intervene by directly contacting the stalker or closing his account.
  • Keep a record of your contacts with ISP officials or law enforcement officials.
  • When contacting police, provide specific details such as any tangible evidence you’ve collected.

Cybercrime Support Groups

Organizations that may also be able to help include:

These groups were created to address online harassment through public education, education of law enforcement personnel, and empowerment of victims. They have a range of articles on their web pages giving advice on internet safety and what to do when targeted by trolls. An article regarding protecting children’s privacy is also available here: https://www.comparitech.com/blog/vpn-privacy/protecting-childrens-privacy/.

Associated helplines and forums offer emotional support, and some of them have connections to detective agencies and law firms to enable victims to identify and prosecute their tormentors. While the problem of cyber trolling isn’t going away, your knowledge of available recourse is your best defense.

Read On…

A few articles you may enjoy on this subject that we found while researching:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-online-secrets/201409/internet-trolls-are-narcissists-psychopaths-and-sadists

http://www.theguardian.com/science/head-quarters/2014/feb/25/internet-trolls-are-also-real-life-trolls

Have you suffered from cyber trolls? Have you sought relief? What was the result? If you have a story to share, we encourage you to leave your comment below, or, if you’d like to make an anonymous comment, email us at info@writerswin.com. We hope by educating fellow authors we can help stop the book-bullying!

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8 thoughts on “Authors: Avoid Cyber Trolls and Book Bullies

  • May 20, 2015 at 3:36 pm
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    Great post and useful tips. Definitely, this one’s a keeper.

    • May 20, 2015 at 3:44 pm
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      Thanks so much Antonia! Write on…

  • May 10, 2015 at 9:47 pm
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    Shari – This article is a keeper, and sadly very relevant. I wouldn’t have thought of contacting Amazon to remove personal attacks.

  • May 10, 2015 at 12:34 pm
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    Provocative, huh? Wow, that’s a bit much. Why not just add in everything we don’t like as well?

  • May 9, 2015 at 6:30 pm
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    Absolutely right, Shari! Interestingly a week or so after the nasty threats from the author who felt insulted by a 4-star rating, I sent a 3-star preview to another author who happened to be a personal friend. I didn’t want her feelings to be hurt but I also couldn’t justify 5-stars when there were so many elements that just weren’t as well crafted and cohesive as they could have been. I privately shared my comments with her that she might learn something useful for future manuscripts but told her I wouldn’t publish it without her consent.

    Quite the flip side of the first author, she insisted that I post it on Amazon because she felt what I said not only gave her a clear understanding of what she needed to work on but that other aspiring wordsmiths could also learn from it and become better storytellers. In the years to come, she will be head and shoulders above the author who felt she was entitled to universal acclaim.

    • May 9, 2015 at 7:54 pm
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      Ain’t that the truth! And thanks for the reminder for us reviewing, too — to be honest, always, otherwise what’s the point, eh? Reminds me, I have a book to review… 🙂

  • May 7, 2015 at 4:33 pm
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    My worst experience thus far was when I sent an author a preview of the four-star review I was planning to post on Amazon. Hey, four stars is nothing to sneeze at, right? Despite the fact that the observations I professionally made about the elements that kept her from getting the full five stars were honest and constructive, she immediately shot back that everyone else had given her five stars (turns out they were all family and friends) and that obviously I was a racist who was trying to crush her enormous talent. Further, if I dared to post that four star review, she would take me to court and have me sued for squillions. Yes. Really.

    I’m not sure what, exactly, the grounds for her lawsuit would be. Rather than invite even more wrath from this author, however, I didn’t post the review. If bullying and threatening reviewers is the way she thinks she can garner respect, in this industry, I have to feel very sorry for her. As a newbie, she certainly had potential but I do cringe at the thought she believes she has already reached perfection and can learn nothing more about honing her craft.

    In any interesting postscript, she sent me an email a few months later to tell me that all her friends thought her book should be a movie and – knowing I worked as a script consultant – did I have Tyler Perry’s phone number.

    • May 7, 2015 at 10:34 pm
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      Oh, my. Yes, another thing authors should note — not all reviews have to be five stars to get attention. In fact, a few not-so-great reviews let the public know that the reviews in general are credible and legit… Authors should also realize that a reviewer is taking time out of their day, uncompensated, to write a review. Sad that this author had such expectations couple with a narrow view… that doesn’t bode well for growth as an artist, eh? Thanks for sharing Christina, definitely something authors should also beware of — becoming the bullies themselves!

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