We’ve all come across the trolls on Facebook – people who seem hell bent on ruining any kind of pleasantness happening on the massive social network.
After months of negotiation, I was able to secure an interview with their self proclaimed King, with the proviso that I would never reveal his identity. I was blindfolded and driven some way before I was ushered into a building that I can only presume is his home. Still unable to see, I was lead gently down some stairs into a basement area and my eye coverings were finally removed. Blinking even in the half light, nose wrinkling with the smell of stale pizza, I took in my surroundings – a dingy dungeon with cheap second hand office furniture contrasting with a top of the range computer connected to two huge monitors.
The King himself, disappointingly, turned out to be a pallid and rather overweight middle aged man, on whose face a permanent sneer seemed etched.
“Get on with it!” He barked, making me jump.
“Why do you bother?” I stammered, checking my question sheet.
“Bother? It’s no bother! You see, Facebook was designed as a fun place – somewhere for people to interact, enjoy themselves and share good stuff. That totally runs against our aims, which are to fill the world with negativity, jealousy and an overwhelming sense of failure. Misery is our objective, and whilst Facebook’s founder designed it to do the opposite, we’ve realized it’s a fabulous place for us to sow our seeds of discontent.”
“How many of you are there?”
“I’m not prepared to reveal the overall number, but we have a significant following, and we’re recruiting more daily. We’ve found the old forums on websites (remember them?) are wonderful places to find the sort of people we are looking for!”
“ So how do you measure your success?”
“Ah, we have a points system. Let me give you a couple of examples:
Finding a really positive, uplifting post from someone and spotting something irrelevant, like a typo, for example, is a 20 pointer, and that can increase to 30 points if you can draw someone else into an argument about the relevance of the typo.
You get 50 points for shooting down somebody’s good idea, and that doubles if you can attract another troll to support your argument.
Vaguebooking can be worth up to 35 points.”
“You know, when a troll posts something like “Terrible day. I can’t believe that anyone could treat me like that. I’m never trusting anyone again.” The troll will deliberately not mention any names or explain further, and that leaves friends concerned and wanting to know more. Eventually one will ask for more details, and the troll can then deliver the classic “I’ll PM you.” Thus leaving all his or her other friends feeling out of the loop, curious and disgruntled.
But the really big points are for what we call “Disguised posts.” These are posts instigated by the troll themselves. An example might be finding a link to a piece of information about a new business, but the secret is in the way they present it, often using a snide comment (especially good when they can demonstrate their own superior knowledge) to suggest that the business idea sucks. As well as helping damage the new business, this tactic often prevents other people from following their own new ideas, for fear of being shot down in the same way.”
“Wow, that’s incredible! And what do your trolls get for their points?”
“We have an arrangement with a chain of international pizza restaurants.”
“I can’t help wondering – isn’t the easy solution for everyone just to ignore the trolls? If nobody replies, or comments or takes them on, doesn’t the whole thing just fade away and die?”
“This interview is over. Get out now! AND IF YOU PRINT THAT LAST PART, I PROMISE YOU, YOU’LL REGRET IT!”
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