The Seven Deadly Trolling Sins: Are you guilty?

  • @MsEllenEJones

The first major study into online bullying, conducted by academics at Lancaster University has identified seven "trolling" behaviours that internet users should be wary of.

Many internet users have seen examples of trolling or experienced it directly as victims, but this study also points out that the trolls themselves are a surprisingly diverse group: "The image of trolling is that it is mainly the work of young people, but the fact is trolls come from all ages and backgrounds," says linguistics expert Dr Claire Hardaker.

Here the 'sins' are, in full:

The Seven Deadly Sins of Trolling


1: Digressing from the topic at hand, especially onto sensitive topics.

Not necessarily overtly argumentative, this tactic frustrates its targets with its pointlessness and circularity. Digression onto sensitive topics triggers the strongest reactions.

2: Hypocriticising, especially for a fault that the critic then displays.

A simple tactic, often this is pedantic criticism of grammar, spelling or punctuation in a post which itself contains proof-reading errors to provoke exasperated responses from others.

3: Antipathising, by taking up an alienating position, asking pseudo-naïve questions, etc.

This tactic is heavily reliant on deceiving the group it is aimed at and covertly manipulates egos, sensitivities, morals and feelings of guilt, usually to trigger emotional responses. It can also create moral dilemmas.

4: Endangering others by giving dangerous advice, encouraging risky behaviour, etc.

A trolling strategy designed to masquerade as help or advice whilst actually causing harm and/or forcing others to respond to prevent harm. It relies on the target's social responsibility and moral obligation.

5: Shocking others by being insensitive about sensitive topics, explicit about taboo topics, etc.

This appears to succeed mainly due to the strength of feeling provoked by the deeply personal and extraordinarily hurtful nature of the troll's insensitivity. It triggers a desire to retaliate that is stronger than the desire to deny the troll the satisfaction of a response.

6: Showing aggression to others by insulting, threatening, or otherwise plainly attacking them without (adequate) provocation.

This is open and deliberate aggression without any clear justification with the aim of antagonising its target into retaliating.

7: Cross-posting - sending the same offensive or provocative message to multiple groups then waiting for the response.

The message sent by the troll in this tactic is totally off topic and irrelevant. This deliberately careless 'spamming' tactic can result in potentially thousands of users being inundated with unwanted or irrelevant messages.

So have you ever committed one (or more) of the seven deadly trolling sins? And - more to the point - will you own up to it?