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By Thami Kwazi

Lifestyle Print Editor

Tips to deal with internet trolls from a cyberspace expert

It's become common for people to create ghost cyber or social media internet accounts that are used to intimidate, stalk or even post revenge porn featuring other social media users.

Ghost accounts usually promote hate speech, abuse or reveal unverified personal facts. In South Africa, celebrities and public personalities are often trolled until it becomes a hashtag.

Up until now, most victims of cyber trolls don’t know how to track down the source of the pestering or what to do to stop the messages. Countless people aren’t aware that there is recourse for online harassment.

Doreen Mokoena, chief executive of CyberSec Clinique for your article about online trolls spoke to the Citizen and shares tips on exactly how to report your cyberstalker and prevent future attacks.

Doreen Mokoena.

What is an internet troll and how do you identify one?

Trolling is an act where an individual on the internet, especially a social media platform with a large audience, creates an unfriendly environment on the platform by starting arguments or posting offensive content or off-topic messages that are unpleasant to other viewers. A social media troll is someone who purposely says something controversial to get a rise out of other users.

There are various ways to spot an internet troll on the internet such as: making comments that are not related to the topic or post, commenting with a condescending tone on posts, and refusing to acknowledge evidence and remaining subjective and seeming oblivious in attempt to start an argument amongst individuals.

What is the modus operandi of an internet troll?

Internet trolls enjoy intruding on social platforms, such as joining in uninvited public Zoom calls to use the video conferencing platform’s screen-sharing feature to broadcast disturbing content such as pornography. Internet trolls also love to join in conversations in the comment section of a post to interrupt and harass people by making uncalled-for comments.

Can an internet troll be taken seriously?

Trolling is a form of cyberbullying and comes with devastating mental health consequences. Various studies are documenting what internet trolling does to people’s well-being and mental health, and the outcomes of those studies are alarming. Cyberbullying can affect a victim’s everyday life in many ways and that one incident where a person experienced cyberbullying can become a constant source of distress. Therefore, internet trolling is a serious issue that also has harsh consequences for the perpetrator.

How does one go about reporting an internet troll?

One can deal with internet trolling through the following ways:

  • Block them on social media.
  • Select the mute option on Twitter in relation to the troll’s account.
  • Never respond.
  • Report the troll to the likes of Twitter and Facebook.
  • Collate screenshots of all the comments and report the matter to the police.

In your experience, what is the worst case of harm that an internet troll can cause?

Victims of cyberbullying are more depressed, irritable and angry, and are almost twice as likely to attempt suicide. Some of the feelings that negative comments over the internet can cause include feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable, powerless, exposed and even humiliated. Trolling can also cause a person to feel dissatisfied with who they are, create feelings of anger and even give the person disinterest in life.

Listen to Doreen Mokoena speak below.

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