In previous posts, we’ve discussed types of trolling behavior and talked to someone who has experienced trolling. But what purpose does trolling serve? Why might someone engage in trolling behavior?
This comic from Everyday Feminism is a great place to start:
In this comic, trolls attempt to protect themselves from a perceived threat to their free speech from a feminist online. In order to protect themselves, the trolls create a torrent of threats and misogynistic insults and force the feminist offline. Other feminists, seeing this, silence themselves out of fear.
Though this is only one comic, it actually describes a researched phenomenon. According to an article by Sophia Bratu, “the stratagems used by trolls are instances of ‘silencing strategies.’ The latter endeavor to eliminate the persons from involvement in online public space, or discourage them from getting involved with additional public discussion.” Trolls may ‘troll’ for many reasons, but the ultimate goal is to stifle voices they disagree with.
I find this particularly ironic and perhaps hypocritical. To a troll, their free speech is being threatened, but in protecting themselves, they actually stifle and altogether remove the free speech of others. Is this justice?
If trolls truly, honestly cared about defending their First Amendment right to free speech, they would be doing everything in their power to defend others from oppressive, silencing language that would otherwise dissuade a person from speaking out. If one is going to defend free speech, that free speech must be defended for all.
But trolls do not care about free speech. Trolls care simply about the misogynistic pursuit of silencing and exerting control over women.
But who are trolls themselves? In the next post, I’ll be diving into the people who perpetuate online harassment.
Bratu, Sofia. “The Inexorable Shift Towards An Increasingly Hostile Cyberspace Environment: The Adverse Social Impact Of Online Trolling Behavior.” Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice, vol. 9, no. 2, Aug. 2017, pp. 88–94., doi:10.22381/crlsj9220176.
Deutsch, Barry. “Here’s How Anti-Feminist Trolls Would ‘Save’ Free Speech.” Everyday Feminism, 27 Sept. 2016, everydayfeminism.com/2016/09/trolls-save-free-speech/.