Large Internet communities such as Fertility Friend's forums are victims of a specific type of abuse which is commonly called Internet trolling or troll.
What is a troll?
An Internet troll is an individual (or a team of people) who construct an online identity and use it on message boards and discussion groups for specific abuse purposes. Note that when trolls operate in teams they are more difficult to recognize. On the Internet you cannot know who is sending a message unless you actually see who is typing on the keyboard. In particular trolls like to use multiple online identities and do not hesitate to "talk" to themselves to support their points.
What motivates trolling?
There are many motives but the most common on support communities is either attention seeking or site/product promotion. In some cases trolls are motivated by a direct financial gain (by requesting funds or suggesting gifts). In most cases the trolls will try to collect personal information directly or indirectly, such as email addresses, postal addresses, passwords, phone numbers. The trolls may enjoin you to sign-up on another site or email list that they control with similar motives.
How do I recognize a troll?
It is never easy to tell them apart from genuine posters especially when they do not disclose their goal immediately. We have seen cases where trolls took several months to build support in the community before starting their trolling activity in the open. Contrary to what most people may imagine, their contribution to the community may be positive and supportive at first. Some will even go into baiting people (or accomplice/other identities) to abuse them publicly to garner more support. This is especially true for trolls who seek attention or financial gains.
How to deal with them?
Trolls are best to be ignored. In fact, each time you will mention them or talk about them or talk to them you will reinforce the negative effect on the community.
DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. This is our best recommendation. Use the Ignore button at the top right of the posts and avoid the topics that look artificially controversial. Do not reply to these bait posts and do not communicate any personal information. In support communities, the troll will often pose as a victim. They will seek your support and trust.
Can Fertility Friend stop them?
Unless you involve law enforcement authorities you can never be sure where the truth really lies. Fertility Friend has no authority to perform such investigations. Trolls are not worth the time and effort to investigate the details of their lies. Trolls have no impact on a community if people do not respond to them. For that reason we have developed an Ignore feature on the circles and on the chat rooms. It allows you to ignore trolls and not give them what they seek. This is the absolute best way to fight Internet trolling. If you see a topic getting out of hand, stop posting. This is usually a situation where making your point will serve the abusers. By moving on you will help the community heal and move on. If you feel that someone is a troll, your best action is to ignore this person. Trying to debunk trolls gives them attention. This harms the community as much as the troll itself and will prevent the necessary healing.
Should I alert others if I recognize a troll?
You should not publicly post about troll suspicions. A troll will thrive on your attention and those who will follow you. Whether the attention is positive or negative it serves the troll's purpose. The best course of action is to shun the trolls and not address them or talk about them at all.
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