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What is internet trolling?

Internet trolling: A definition

An internet troll, or online bully, deliberately tries to offend, cause trouble or directly attack people by posting derogatory comments on Facebook posts, blogs, under YouTube videos, on forums and other social media, such as Twitter and Instagram. Not every argument can be considered as trolling; a difference of opinion can lead to healthy discussion which can be invaluable on forums.

So when does acceptable banter turn into trolling? The Oxford Dictionary describes trolling as making “a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them”. There are many different types of troll, such as:

The insult troll, who posts pure hateful comments just for the sake of it. They don’t need to know the person or have a reason for posting spiteful comments.

The forever offended trolls are experts in taking a humorous piece of content and turning it into something sour and offensive.

The show off troll doesn’t particularly like to take part in discussions, but prefers to share their opinion without having any particular knowledge of the subject being discussed.

The “look at me” troll isn’t interested in anything you have to say - they’re on a mission to get you to look at their page, buy something from them, download their content or follow them.

There are many other types out there, but luckily online trolling is still relatively rare, so don’t let the headlines you see on social media put you off. If you are unfortunate enough to fall victim to online trolling, or if you want to know how to protect yourself from attacks, here are a few suggestions:

Four ways to protect yourself from trolling:


Don’t reply to any nasty or offensive comments. Giving trolls attention is exactly what they want and will only lead to more upset.


Block, block, block. If you’re not sure how to, you’ll find some step by step instructions on how to block trolls on Facebook and Twitter below.


If you’re being trolled, report the instigator to the site administrators. If they keep popping up, keep reporting them and if that’s still not helping you should contact the police. Again, you’ll find some information on how to report trolls on Facebook and Twitter below.


If a troll upsets you, remember it’s their problem and not yours. Talk to friends and family about how you are feeling.

Using Facebook and Twitter to reduce the effect of online trolling

Facebook: Blocking

If someone is trolling you on Facebook you can block them so they can’t see anything you post, tag you in photos, or start a conversation with you. Simply click on the privacy shortcuts (the padlock symbol) in the top right of the screen and click on ‘How do I stop someone bothering me?’ Add their name or email and click ‘Block’.

Facebook: Reporting

Being sent inappropriate or offensive messages? Report the person to Facebook.

Open the message, click the Settings icon (the cog symbol) and select ‘Report as Spam or Abuse’. Alternatively, to report an individual’s profile, click the three grey dots next to ‘Message’ and select ‘Report’.

Facebook: Protect your posts

If you are being targeted by trolls, set your profile to private so strangers can’t access it, post on your wall or send you messages.

Click on the down arrow in the top menu bar and select ‘Settings’. Click the ‘Privacy’ option on the right and go to ‘Who can see my stuff – Who can see your future posts?’ Click ‘Edit’. In the drop-down menu select ‘Friends’ so only Facebook friends can see your posts.

Facebook: Control who contacts you

You can control who sends you friend requests by clicking on the down arrow in the top menu bar and selecting ‘Settings’. Click the ‘Privacy’ option go to ‘Who can contact me? – Who can send you friend requests’ and click ‘Edit’. Change the drop-down menu option from ‘Everyone’ to ‘Friends of Friends’.

Twitter: Block

Click onto the profile of the person you want to block, tap the cog symbol and select ‘Block’ or ‘Report’.

Twitter: Protect your tweets

When you initially set up your Twitter profile, it is automatically set at ‘Public’, which means anyone can read what you say and respond. If you’d rather keep your Tweets private so only your followers can see them, click the Gear icon and ‘Settings’. Select ‘Security and privacy >> Privacy >> Tweet privacy’ and tick the box next to ‘Protect my Tweets’. This means anyone who wants to follow you on Twitter will have to send you a request to approve.

Remember, try not to take anything personally. It’s generally the troll who has the problem, not you. If you can, try to laugh off anything they say. They’re just not worth your time or the effort it takes to engage in conversation with them.

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