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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+.

That's who trolls are, but what is this thing they do? What is trolling?

Trolling is the act of gratifying one's desire to see people suffer by the use of specially targeted comments on message boards or social networks under the cover of anonymity.
The motives for trolling vary wildly. Sometimes trolls harbor hatreds (women, minorities, people on the other side of the political spectrum). Some trolls resent the famous or influential and want to bring them down. Trolls view anonymity as a source of power, often attacking people who are known and public while they themselves remain anonymous.

Some trolls just like making people upset, hijacking conversations and becoming the focus of attention. Others are profoundly aggressive and malicious and try to ruin, or actually succeed in ruining, people's lives or businesses.

Trolls do real damage. Trolling (and spambot-generated spam) convinced Popular Science -- a publication devoted to open discourse about science -- to shut off comments for everybody. Trolls swarm to grieving people who have recently lost a loved one -- for example, they drove the daughter of the late actor and comedian Robin Williams off Twitter, though temporarily. (The event was seen by some as part of a larger trend of women being forced offline by trolls' intimidation tactics.) They've allegedly even driven young victims to suicide.

Such horrible events are rare. Far more common is that women, racial minorities, LGBT people, political dissidents and others are silenced by trolls. They simply withdraw from social media and public posting.

Trolling is wrong. And you don't have to accept it. It's time to stop putting up with trolling and do something about it.

Why Google+ excels at shutting down trolls
The good news for anyone who wants to be a public and influential person is that there are places to go where you can express yourself, have conversations and share your passions and still keep trolls in check. The best of these is Google+, in my opinion.

The reason why I say Twitter is the worst and Google+ is the best is partly structural. On Twitter, each tweet is equal to every other. So if someone makes a statement, and another person comments on it, those tweets are equal in status, theoretically.

But on Google+, comments to a post are part of and subordinate to that post. When trolls comment on your post on Google+, you can delete the comment and block future comment. On Twitter, you cannot do either.

I'll give you a very basic example. If you post a picture of your dog on Twitter and a troll says something horrible about your dog, there's nothing you can do to prevent your followers and their followers from seeing the troll's comment. The troll can then continue to harass and threaten you without consequence until the end of time by @-mentioning you, everyone you engage with and others who commented.


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