Thanks Octavia for a very helpful article. Until I learned about SWATting I basically thought trolls were (for me, though not in any way for others) sad and sometimes unintentionally funny because their comments are usually so foolish. Today however I think we need to be aware, as your article so rightly points out, that trolling can have serious real-world consequences. For sites such as Medium that require a subscription it ought to be fairly easy for authorities to take action against potentially dangerous trolls, but law enforcement is usually reluctant to prioritize “low threat” crimes and thus little action is taken except in unusual circumstances. Perhaps the most efficacious rebuttal to trolls will be, over time, to change the perception of trolling in popular culture to the point where most are discouraged because they will be self-consciously aware of being objects of ridicule. As a group species we’ve developed a variety of techniques for minimizing the harm done by maladjusted individuals and empirical data would suggest that ridicule is a highly efficacious non-violent method. Although people react strongly to being ridiculed they also learn to avoid repeating behaviors that will reliably lead to more ridicule in future. It’s an imperfect solution but perhaps part of some overall response to the problem too many people face today when online.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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