The internet offers frightening anonymity to troublemakers of all kinds, some of them violent and evil, some just pawns in a larger game, but inherently they too are mischievous people.
There are no statistics about India, but “41% of Americans have been personally subjected to harassing behaviour online, and an even larger share (66%) has witnessed these behaviours directed at others.” This was the result of a new, nationally representative Pew Research Center survey. Almost half of these were severe threats, including physical threats and online stalking.
Complaining to the police is an option. The police will track the troll down, if the complainant is persistent enough, and the threat is serious enough. Unfortunately the advice that most people are given is to ignore the trolls. This doesn’t help. Here is an article which says that the advice is a hideous lie. And here is another article which tells you why ignoring trolls is bad advice. Trolls are cowards, and they will keep attacking a person they perceive to be weak.
The troll situation has escalated greatly. Now there are organised troll mobs. Or call them virtual hate mobs. Or terrorist mobs. There are usually powerful groups behind these mobs, and this was evident in the American election where hate for Hillary Clinton was spewed freely in social media, and people could do nothing because it is supposed to be “free speech” and never mind if it is lies. If it can happen in America, it can certainly happen everywhere else. Troll mobs are being used by repressive regimes all over the world.
In India, we have the Hindutva trolls, and this article lists out the other types of trolls – the Sanskari Trolls, the Fake News trolls, the Misogynist trolls, the Liberal/Secular trolls. Once these trolls get organised, they get more courage, just like the hateful mobs on the streets. Recently Twitter suspended 70 million fake accounts. So you can imagine how bad the problem is.
One thing is clear. There are no “good” trolls, however much we would like to believe it. The truth is that good people do not turn into trolls. A venomous troll will be a venomous and hateful person in real life too, although others may not know it, because of the mask he/she wears. He may be your neighbour. I have written about an experience in a post (dark side of the internet) about how I unmasked a “respectable” person because he stupidly used the same IP address to troll me (on another blog), and also write sweet comments.
Unfortunately, the way the situation is now, there is little that can be done. Because governments and political parties are using virtual hate mobs.
One day this will backfire on these very governments.