It’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.
A few articles you may enjoy on this subject that we found while researching:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope by educating fellow authors we can help stop the book-bullying!