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Thu Oct 23, 2014, 09:08 AM

The Trollslayers: 3 Women Who Took on the Internet’s Misogynistic Underbelly

At the height of the age of chat rooms and online message boards—around the dawn of the new millennium—trolls looked a bit different than they do now. Rather than being people who use anonymous Twitter accounts to send death threats, trolls were people who would pose deliberately outrageous or derailing arguments just to make people mad.

Like when someone would come to liberal forums discussing the best way to implement marriage equality, trolls would show up to say that gay people should be rounded up and put on an island somewhere off the coast of Japan, so that no one else would “catch the gay.”

A successful troll could put on a convincing show of really believing this was reasonable and, with one or two posts, completely derail an entire conversation because everyone involved now had to stop and tell the bigot how much of a bigot he was. Then he would slink away to pop up again under a different name and different type of bigotry.

There was also another breed of trolls called "flamers"—people who would verbally abuse and harass others. They would single out one user at a time and throw slurs and various insults until their fingers got tired—without actually posing any kind of counter-argument, the way a standard troll would.

In those days, ignoring the trolls often worked. If no one “fed” them by getting angry at their posts, they would get bored and leave—except for the flamers. Flamers couldn’t be starved out because the venting of anger and hatred was its own reward, even if the flamers were universally reviled.


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