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Trolls: long and serious (sorry!)

(60 Posts)
marthamoo Fri 02-Jan-04 14:45:54

OK, this has been bothering me for a while now and I've ummed and aahed about whether to post or not..so here goes.

There seem to have been quite a few *troll* accusations levelled at new posters recently, some made by people who have hidden their identities in order to make the accusation. I don't know whether the original posters were really trolls, and that's the point really, NO-ONE does, not for sure. *Troll* is a euphemism for calling someone a liar - would a person actually call someone a liar to their face IRL if they doubted their story? I know I wouldn't.

The reason this matters so much to me at the moment is because just before Christmas something very tragic (can't go into details) happened to the husband of a woman my dh knows. The very next day she gave birth to her first baby. My dh (much to my surprise, as he moans like mad about the amount of time I spend on MN) asked a mutual friend to tell her about Mumsnet, as he felt the support of other online Mums might be of help to her. To my knowledge, she hasn't posted, and to be completely honest, I'm relieved. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel if she had posted, as a new member, with a story that sounds like something out of Take a Break or Chat *My Real Life Tragedy* but in fact is TRUE, I think it's quite likely she would have been accused of being a troll. How devastating for someone in real need, and emotional distress, to be accused of making up stories.

I do know trolls can cause real upset. A poster on a site I used to frequent caused a lot of upset to many vulnerable people by posting about the death of her child, under the most horrific circumstances. But when it all came out, the poster HAD lost a child, not in the circumstances she described, but she was obviously someone who did need help, she sadly chose a destructive way of looking for it.

I'd just like to sound a note of caution - if you suspect someone of being a troll (and I'm neither naive or gullible - I know they're out there) surely it's better to give them the benefit of the doubt? And if you can't find it in yourself to do that then just don't respond. Surely a real troll is looking for a reaction - lack of interest is likely to send them off to new pastures.

Right, public service announcement over, I'll get off my soapbox now. I just really felt I needed to get that off my chest.

sb34 Fri 02-Jan-04 15:01:42

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mears Fri 02-Jan-04 17:03:13

I think what you say is really valid Marthamoo. I tend to just avoid threads that I am not sure of. It could be really distressing for someone to be accused of being a troll if they have a real issue. Beast to choose either to respond or not. A lack of response would be better than an accusation IMO.

Roscoe Fri 02-Jan-04 17:09:18

I think it is cowardly when posters change their names to make troll accusations. Someone has been calling themself TROLLPOLICE and doing this. All it does is cause bad feeling and suspicion.

aloha Fri 02-Jan-04 17:27:26

I have spotted trolls before, and I have to say, I would be very upset if I had posted some details of my child's life in order to provide sexual satisfaction for a pervert. I think it is fair, personally, to warn Mumsnetters not to respond if that is the case. We've had a few posters obsessed with bondage and children, and naked children of different sexes being together. I think it is distressing when your experiences are used to fuel their sick fantasies. Recently, after doing a quick search of their previous postings (repetitive, suggestive, just plain weird) I accused someone of being a fake, and they actually admitted it. So I don't feel guilty one bit, personally.

Roscoe Fri 02-Jan-04 17:51:53

Using your usual name is a different matter. I accused one poster of being troll as they were posting on one thread that they were a struggling single mother, on a second thread they supposedly had a husband in the next room who was beating them, and on a third thread they were insulting people. Two sets of MN'ers were each trying to help with these 'problems'.

Mog Fri 02-Jan-04 18:40:36

Marthamoo, I think you are making a really good point. When I was a Samaritan we were taught to treat every caller as genuine even if they seemed to be mucking about or a bit of a pervert (and you wouldn't believe how many calls there were like that). Simply because underneath all the surface stuff there might well be a cry for help.

motherinferior Fri 02-Jan-04 18:56:05

I've been concerned about this as well. We do seem - often with previous very good reason, as Aloha points out - very eager to suggest TROLL at any slightly odd posting from a new person.

victoriapeckham Fri 02-Jan-04 18:59:02

To my accusers: I am not a troll. I am a real woman.

Mummysurfer Fri 02-Jan-04 19:07:21

You've made me think marthamoo. When I see troll accusations I tend to ignore/avoid the thread. haven't really thought about why until now but maybe I don't want to be seen as gullible (sp) so don't post just in case it is a troll. In future I will give those who instigate a possible troll the benefit of the doubt and those who try to spoil a thrad I will ignore.

dingo Fri 02-Jan-04 19:32:41

As a new poster I was a little concerned about what I saw on one of the conception threads recently. Someone had asked about using a cushion to 'prop themselves up'. I'm no prude but I was quite shocked by 2 of the replies and it put me off mumsnet a bit. It was only when people mentioned that they might be bogus that I realised that this wasn't the norm on mumsnet.

melsy Fri 02-Jan-04 19:42:27

The shame of it is is that you can be left feeling very vunerable and exposed by someone like this. Or feel very ostracised if know one believes what you are posting, thats a very worrying prospect.

You tend to try and hope that everyone is genuine , otherwise it would feel very awkward in posting half the threads and responses to other ones.

There have been a couple of occasions were posters have been very agressive and it has stopped me cold. I have sometimes been very worried to post messages because of it.

fisil Fri 02-Jan-04 19:51:27

I don't know if this is the point dingo was making, but I am also glad, in a way, that the trolls on the conception thread were outed. However, I would have prefered it even more if they were never there. I had not realised they were anything other than genuine. Once the troll comments were made I read again and realised how far fetched they were. Which made me realise just how much ttc has got to me, even though I didn't think it had. So yes, I did feel vulnerable.

dingo Fri 02-Jan-04 20:02:15

Yes, fisil. You explained it perfectly. I know each situation is different but on this particular occasion I'm glad people outed the poster(s).

libb Fri 02-Jan-04 20:18:02

I am also glad that the "troll" stuff has been noted, I haven't been posting very long on this site and was really pleased to find a site that offered open minded, helpful advice as I am going through my first pregnancy and need all the help I can get. However I got a little caught up in some confusion a few days ago where for a while I thought I was being called a troll and felt really let down by it. I didn't post much for a while after that.

So I realise that maybe I am a little gullible but please allow us newcomers to post concerns too, I don't think I've come up with anything too bizarre yet but with these hormones and moments of amnesia who can tell?!

Paula71 Fri 02-Jan-04 22:23:35

Okay, am I just naive or stupid or both. I saw a thread about trolls a while back and to be honest am still baffled. How do you know someone is a troll?

I come on Mumsnet, sometimes looking for advice, sometimes to add my (ever so humble)opinion to threads. I would hate to be thought of as a trouble-maker or to have someone use what I say of my ds twins. Oh I don't know!

StressyHead Fri 02-Jan-04 22:27:34

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nutcracker Fri 02-Jan-04 22:33:58

I agree that there are trolls on mn sometimes but please remember that some people new to mn aren't always sure how to word things, so they may seem a bit strange to others. I was recently a bit put off mn by some comments made on mn and i know a friend who stopped using the site completely because of such goings on. Think before you type is all i can say !

jasper Fri 02-Jan-04 23:18:14

marthamoo I agree 100% with your post.
I really cringe when people are accused of being trolls with scant evidence.

It so smacks of "we are a clique, keep out."
Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

zebra Fri 02-Jan-04 23:27:30

Paula71: you don't always "know" if someone is a troll, but there are tell-tale signs. They usually go into graphic detail, can't spell or punctuate worth a damn, most of their posts have sexual connotations.... The suspect ones on Mumsnet have also tended to come up with very far-fetched tales or revert to adolescent-level chatter & insults (the main person Roscoe outed was like that).

Must be awful to be falsely accused of trolling, but I also (personally) find their shallow attempts at attention-seeking deeply annoying, sometimes. That, of course, is exactly the reaction that trolls tend to want, thankfully I tend to not notice them on MNet, so can persevere in blissful ignorance.

robinw Sat 03-Jan-04 05:46:11

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marthamoo Sat 03-Jan-04 10:44:11

Interesting responses, thanks. I guess it all boils down to the fact that there is no solution to this problem. My initial post was mostly in reaction to threads I've read recently where there has been no real indication (to me anyway) that the poster is a troll. Indeed in some cases, the accused has obviously been hurt and deterred from posting by the accusation - libb, for example.

I didn't see most of the other threads mentioned here and agree that where it is OBVIOUS someone is a troll, it is best that they be outed, but I still think this is something that should be done through *official channels*. Once people start flinging around troll accusations the whole atmosphere becomes one of suspicion: where you hesitate before posting a question or response. I don't know exactly how tech deal with accusations but presumably they contact the poster direct, and if the poster is a fraud, this would hopefully deter them in future.

Like zebra, I think a lot of trolls are probably adolescents. To be honest, as a 12/13 year old, I would probably have found it hysterically funny to post *witty* (ie., juvenile) responses on a forum like this. In my day of course we could only do such things by ringing random phone numbers and asking for "Mr Head? Dick?" or pretending to be sophisticated 19 year olds on CB radio. That sort of troll probably can't comprehend the hurt they could cause to people needing real advice and support - like fisil on the ttc thread

But there really isn't any way of preventing them altogether. Robinw points out that maybe a thread like this fuels trolls; I would say this whole site, the whole internet, fuels trolls -it's a feeding ground for them. I imagine most of them, though, have the mental capacity and attention span of a doughnut, and probably get bored fairly quickly and move on if they don't get a good reaction.

So to clarify my original post: where there is no evidence that someone is a troll (other than a vague suspicion that their story maybe seems a little too apt for the thread, or, even worse, simply because they are a new poster) then leave well alone. If they really are a troll they will trip themselves up eventually, or get bored.

Where someone is DEFINITELY a troll then , yes, they should be stopped (Roscoe and Zebra have obviously recognised them on here - though, zebra, I don't think bad spelling and punctuation are a surefire indicator ) then surely it is best reported to the REAL Mumsnet *police* for them to deal with. It's a sad fact that we never know who is lurking or posting under false pretences - it's easy to feel that you are just chatting among friends, and forget that anyone could be eavesdropping. Which is also, sadly, why you have to be cautious about just how much information you give out...but that's a whole 'nother thread

OK, head's hurting now...back to the flippant chat threads for me

Mardy Sat 03-Jan-04 11:13:59

Let me say immediately - and thereby save the "troll police" the nuisance of having to investigate it for themselves - that this is my first post. I hope that I am not thereby classified as a "troll", but sadly I am not hopeful. I have read the two posts deemed controversial on the "pillow" conception thread and I cannot agree that they are confirmed "outed trolls" as seems to be the majority opinion. It seems equally likely that the two posters are from somewhere else in the world like California (for example) who simply then decided not to bother with us anymore after having received (in their eyes) a rather prudish and vaguely hysterical reaction to voices from a rather different culture. And no doubt there are other possible explanations as you suggest. So I think you have a real point to make Marthamoo and not one to be dismissed lightly. It is so easy to check that someone is a first poster and then follow up the "suspect" post with a comment like "Big hmmmmm" or "First post for jennyhw too ? ?" thereby orchestrating a chorus of insular remarks that would not have been out of place in medieval times. A chorus from the "safe" side of the drawbridge of course.

nearlymybeetrootday Sat 03-Jan-04 11:23:21

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Roscoe Sat 03-Jan-04 11:47:54

Marthamoo - You've made some valid points. From now on if I suspect a troll I'll either ignore it or, in serious cases, e-mail Mumsnet.

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