Do you know what a troll is? It is a monster from folklore tales who lives under a bridge and demands a fee for its crossing. However, there is a worse explanation for the word “troll” – it is a modern 21st century monster that spreads lies and hatred online. You have all seen hundreds of comments and posts on online forums, portals, blogs, and other digital platforms, when a friendly and constructive discussion has turned into chunks, insults, or even a virtual war. Now, the scale of trolling is reaching new levels and it became a danger to many news websites and this offensive manner of writing comments has become a true online weapon of international politics and media.
We are still trying to convince ourselves that online trolls thrive only in the online space where they make every effort to interrupt the normal discussions or to offend and provoke someone. If the troll already knows his job, he manages to offend not a few people but the whole community. Unfortunately, modern trolls are no longer just angry commentators. Now such people create texts on news websites, administer groups on social networks, or even create their own web pages to spread false information on an even larger scale.
In the 1990s, the first internet users found less harmful trolls asking stupid questions in Usenet groups. However, modern trolls have evolved into those who seek to bring a person, even on the other side of the world, out of their minds. When another person is emotionally broken, the troll enjoys the “lulz” or “lol” stage – the satisfaction of getting someone out of balance. It is true that it is seldom done forcibly or specifically in the full realization of one’s actions, it is usually done simply sincerely, because some part of consciousness really thinks so. And secondly, IT technologies have finally become reachable and understandable to all proponents of various conspiracy theories, so there are a lot of trolls in an instant. There are also smarter trolls. For example, the army of trolls attacked Google in 2008 and ranked the swastika symbol written in Unicode on the Hot Trends list.
An experiment took place in Sweden a couple of years ago: a Twitter account @Sweden was created that could be used by any Swedish citizen who applied and promised that their posts would be interesting and written in English. There were a wide range of posts during the year: photos from elk hunting, criticism from the Swedish executive, discussions with Muslims living in Sweden, and a lot of other kind of content.
But then appeared 27-year-old mother and housewife Sonja Abrahamsson. She, like everyone else, filled out the application and received the account login information. Her posts included thoughts such as “Before WWII Hitler was one of the most beautiful names in the entire world”. She wrote an incredible amount of similar nonsense, and a tag “Sweden” was used everywhere. Thus, many offensive comments related to racism and contempt for gender equality were associated with Sweden.
After this incident, the Swedish Tourism Agency, which is responsible for supervising @Sweden account, is more cautious in electing Swedish curators representing the country. The court decision said that Sonja Abrahamsson had no intentions to harm Sweden. However, there are many similar examples and a lot of them are malicious.