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How to control trolls with Google+

Mike Elgan | Oct. 21, 2014
Bothered by comment trolls on social media? Shut them down with Google+.

internet troll
Credit: Francis Storr

Every major social network is a mixed bag of good qualities and bad. For example, the best quality of Twitter might be its limit on the length of tweets, which enables you to follow many people and organizations without getting bogged down in long-winded, complicated posts.

The worst quality of Twitter, in my opinion, is the weakness of tools, features and policies for protecting against cyber-harassment. Trolls, bullies, racists and other haters run wild on Twitter, and there's little ordinary users can do about it.

Which brings us to one of the best things about Google+: The social network is nearly ideal for posting publicly and in the full light of day, while simultaneously protecting against trolls and other haters.

In truth, most people aren't affected by trolls. But for those who are -- especially those who want to voice their opinions, promote their work or causes and be themselves (or their pseudonyms) in public, gain influence, interact with a lot of people and do it all without fear, harassment or bullying -- it's worth considering a move from Twitter to Google+, where trolls can be effectively managed.

Wait, what? Move to Google+?

Emphatically yes. While Google's focus has shifted away from Google+ of late, leading some industry watchers to speculate that the company may abandon its social network, new Google+ head David Besbris says it's not going anywhere, and I believe him. The strong anti-troll features of Google+ are part of a larger set of features that make it (in my opinion) the best social site on the Internet -- and something that Google isn't likely to pull the plug on.

In this article, I'm going to give you my definition of the word "troll." I'll talk about the damage they increasingly do. And finally, I'll go into detail on how to control trolls on Google+.

What's a troll, anyway?
In countless conversations online and off on the subject of trolls, I've noticed both enlightened differences of opinion and also widespread misunderstanding. So I'll be clear about what I mean when I use the word "troll."

A troll is not someone who passionately argues points of view they believe in, or who stridently forces their opinion on people online. It's not necessarily a bully, either. Not all cyberbullies are trolls and not all trolls are cyberbullies.

Simply put, trolls (according to a recently published study from the University of Manitoba) are "everyday sadists" and "psychopaths" who get pleasure from the unhappiness of others. Some are "accidental trolls" -- and don't even know that they're trolls. Others are proud of the distinction and devote countless hours to honing their trolling skills and bragging to other trolls on dedicated message boards.

 

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