a.k.a. trolls, trolling, don't feed the trolls, the dark tetrad

Online it originally meant the act of posting a message in a newsgroup or blog) that is obviously exaggerating something on a particular topic, hoping to trick a newbie into posting a follow-up article that points out the mistake.

In general, to "troll" means to allure, to fish, to entice, or to bait. Internet trolls are humans who post nasty things to strangers online. They fish for other people's confidence and, once found, exploit it. Trolls vary in nature; here are four types of online trolls:

  • Playtime Trolls: an individual plays a simple, short game. Such trolls are relatively easy to spot because their attack or provocation is fairly blatant, and the persona is fairly two-dimensional.
  • Tactical Trolls: This is where the troller takes the game more seriously, creates a credible persona to gain confidence of others, and provokes strife in a subtle and invidious way.
  • Strategic Trolls: A very serious form of game, involving the production of an overall strategy that can take months or years to develop. It can also involve a number of people acting together in order to invade a list.
  • Domination Trolls: This is where the trollers' strategy extends to the creation and running of apparently bona-fide mailing lists.

You have probably heard various opinions about how to deal with people who write insulting or provocative remarks on various Internet forums. The most common is "Don't Feed the Trolls", which says that all the people in the forum should avoid responding to the troll.

Historical perspective: The people who post nasty comments online are likely to have pathological personalities, said a 2014 study from the University of Manitoba. Known as “Internet trolls,” Web users who like to post inflammatory comments, incite arguments, and send insulting tweets are more likely to exhibit Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, and sadism. Collectively known as the “Dark Tetrad,” these personality traits were shown to be prevalent through surveys designed to understand what makes trolls tick. Participants were asked about their Internet behavior, including how frequently they posted comments and whether they preferred chatting, making friends, or trolling. Of the 418 people surveyed, 59 percent reported actively commenting, and among those just 5.6 percent admitted to trolling. The trolls gave responses that were strongly associated with the traits in the Dark Tetrad, especially sadism and psychopathy; they were more likely, for example, to agree with the statement “The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt.” According to, the Internet’s anonymity has freed pathological people to act out.

NetLingo Classification: Online Jargon

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