||Tweet this page|
Dear media, "trolling" is not synonymous with "abuse". Chris Finnamore bemoans the loss of the troll's original definition, and celebrates an ignoble art in danger of extinction
Another week, another example of the perils and repercussions of online abuse. This time the outcome was desperately sad, as a so-called Twitter "troll" was doorstepped and interviewed by Sky News, leading to her receiving a torrent of online abuse before being found dead in a hotel room. At other times those the media refers to as "trolls" have been arrested and prosecuted, leading to yet more ruined lives.
In another age these people may have been confined to ranting about their chosen target - whether it's a celebrity they object to or a newspaper columnist they disagree with - in the pub, but the internet gives them the chance to abuse their target directly. This is, of course, deeply upsetting for the victim, so consequences are inevitable.
I'm not defending such actions, as those who abuse others online are vile. What annoys me is the media's misuse of the word "troll".
To describe someone who simply flings abuse at others on the internet as a troll is not only wrong, but is an affront to the ignoble art of trolling. Trolling, in its original form, is the act of deliberately posting something contrary on a message board thread in order to provoke angry responses, such as posting with common grammar mistakes in a forum about accurate writing, or praising Michael Bay on a relatively highbrow film forum. It can also involve giving terrible advice in order to fool the recipient, such as convincing them to delete Windows' system32 folder to improve browsing performance; something which, while clever, is a horrible thing to do.
Despite what the BBC, Guardian, Sky News and all the rest say, insulting strangers and sending death threats via Twitter is not trolling. For a guide to genuine trolling which doesn't contain too much offensive language, see http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/subcultures/trolling.
For more, and to stay abreast of everything that's going on in the world of technology, Subscribe to Computer Shopper magazine today, and get your first 3 issues for just £1 »