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Articles

How to Deal with Trolls

By Camille Schuster

If you’ve used the internet, there’s a high percentage chance that you’ve encountered a troll. Online trolls wreak havoc on conversations across the web for the sole purpose of making others upset. Roughly two-thirds of Americans say they have seen abusive behavior directed towards others online. This abusive behavior has even led to nearly 30% of Americans to change their mind about posting something online. It’s also the reason why many publishers have chosen to avoid comments completely. We believe that it’s time to take back the web from the trolls, bullies, and bots and turn online publishers into the hosts of our public discourse. Here’s how you can take back your conversations from the trolls: 

Set Guidelines for the Community 

The first step is making sure that anyone who visits your site — including the trolls — know what the guidelines are for commenting in your community. These rules are your clear line in the sand and allow you to refer users back to them if they cross the line. Make sure they are displayed clearly on your site (our Community Guidelines are shown right at the top of the conversation). This way your users know that if they violate those terms there are consequences for their actions. We’ve seen our partners tailor these rules to meet their own editorial guidelines and standards. Overall, Community Guidelines are a great way to easily communicate your rules to your community before the conversation even starts. 

Use Moderation Technology & Moderators

Moderation is incredibly important because it is how your guidelines are enforced. Sometimes the best way to deal with a troll is to block or ban them from your site. If the comments cross into derogatory, hateful racist, violent, or any of the other guidelines you put in place they should be flagged and removed. Here at OpenWeb, we use a combination of automated and human moderation to identify behaviors that violate publishers’ guidelines and put the community at risk. 

Give Real-Time Feedback 

A great way to deal with trolls is to stop them before the message even gets posted. A few months ago, we started nudging our users before they were about to post something that interfered with the guidelines — giving them a second chance to change their comment. We actually found that the majority of users chose to amend their comments when they were nudged to behave better. Almost 55%-65% of the users who edited their comments changed their comments in a way that they were successfully published. Of course, trolls will try and abuse the system by posting their rejected comments over and over again, but we introduced an auto-suspension feature for this exact problem. After three rejections — or whatever threshold our partners choose — they will automatically be suspended from creating any further comments in that specific conversation. 

Build a Loyal Community 

Once your rules are established and your larger community supports and adheres to your rules they will also help you enforce those rules. A tight community looks out for one another. If a troll infiltrates the community and starts attacking a community member oftentimes another community member will stand up to the troll, or report them. Mary Elizabeth Williams Director of Community for our partner Salon.com says she’s seen people hold each other to certain standards and also rally around each other. 

Step Away & Don’t Argue with Them 

There is no point in sending in your journalists to fight back with a troll. As we said in our Guide for Journalists Talking with Readers trolls mostly troll to get attention, so it’s best to not give it to them. Most of the time by arguing back, you will have just walked into their trap. It’s best to walk away and if it is in violation of your guidelines report them. 

It’s important for publishers to be able to create an online community where people can speak their minds freely, without fear of abuse, and where meaningful, thought-provoking discussions can flourish. We hope to create a web where publishers are thriving destinations and, where people can exchange — and embrace—new ideas openly with one another.

Learn more about our end-to-end quality framework. 

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