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What Is A Troll?
One of the most commonly-misunderstood internet labels is that of a troll. In the popular media, it is used as a general term for anyone who is abusive, or who makes negative comments in forums or social media sites. And that really isn't what it means.
The term derives from the usenet (newsgroup) groups that preceded the later popularity of the web. Within usenet, there are groups dedicated to particular subjects of interest. And, in this big wide world, there are a lot of people with unusual interests and this is reflected in the quantity of groups that are available.
A troll would enter one of those groups and make a post which was guaranteed to oppose one or more of the positions held by those who frequented that group. The purpose of such a move was to sit back and watch people vent their anger at whatever the troll had posted. To some, this is classed as a means of entertainment. The key point about the content that was posted by the troll is that they may well not hold that view. They may well totally disagree with what they posted, but agreement or disagreement (at a personal level) is a moot point. The purpose is the reaction that it generates, not the views that they themselves hold.
The classic troll behaviour is to leave that discussion thread without any further contributions - so long as other users are filling that thread on their own. When the discussion quietens down, with fewer people feeding it, the troll will usually return and reply to one or more of the comments, furthering yet more anger (and replies) to what they've said. This is known as "feeding the troll" i.e. giving them exactly what they'd hoped for.
The more experienced troll will do something known as cross-posting, which involves the posting of a comment to more than one newsgroup; and those newsgroups will bring together people with diametrically-opposed views. This will almost certainly guarantee a more-heated debate, where the troll needn't add any further inflamatory comments. He just sits back with his popcorn, watching people hate each other.
And that is what a troll is.
This is what a troll isn't: someone who abuses someone else on the internet, someone who disagrees with your view or someone who disagrees with (what is ironically known as) "common sense" positions. There are a variety of views in the world and those who hold to the less common views are not (by definition) trolls. If someone disagrees with you, it might well be that they simply disagree with you. It might simply be that you are wrong... or you're right, but somebody thinks that you are wrong.
A troll's posted opinions are not necessarily the views held by that troll. If someone repeats a personally-established position and backs that position up with valid and sound arguments... they're not a troll.
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