Internet trolls. They lurk insidiously on forums and social media, sewing trouble ever since the Internet began. Where once they kept to the shadows of 90s chat rooms, today’s internet trolls are far more visible, vocal and, critically, evasive. Social media platforms are cracking down on troll’s antics but in 2019 we will see these dissidents find new digital homes to escape moderation. Welcome to The Great Migration of the Trolls.
Trolls are complex creatures that escape clear understanding, but The Oxford English Dictionary provides us with a useful definition: “someone who posts unkind or offensive messages on social media sites, and often tries to start arguments with other users.”
This last point is key: an internet troll’s motivation is to divide and conflict. In the 80s and 90s such behaviour was confined to the margins of the internet: chat boards, forums and other low-profile places. Because they were so peripheral, trolls went largely unpoliced. Fast forward to today and trolls have found a new, louder mouthpiece to deliver their message: social media. The messages they spread are at times frightening, dangerous and manipulative. When faced with such potentially harmful behaviour, the social media platforms that gave trolls their platform have been forced to act.