Five ways to defeat blog trolls and cyberstalkers

Trolling can lead to far worse things, including cyberstalking

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Cyberstalkers

Cyberstalkers can also assume many different forms, according to Wood, although they're basically characterized by a continuing pattern of communication that the recipient considers to be offensive. Other common traits of cyberstalkers are malice, premeditation, repetition, distress to the victim, an obsession on the part of the stalker, seeking of revenge, threats that make victims fear for their physical safety and disregarded warnings to stop.

As with trolls, there are several different types of cyberstalkers, according to Wood:

  • Intimate partner: The most common type of stalker, this is usually a man who has a history of controlling and emotional abuse during a relationship.

  • Delusional stalkers: This type of stalker builds an entire relationship with the victim in his or her mind, whether any prior contact has taken place or not. Such stalkers are likely to have a major mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or erotomania, which means they believe the victim is in love with them. The typical delusional stalker is unmarried, socially immature and a loner who is unable to sustain close relationships with others.

  • Vengeful stalker. This type of person is angry with the victim due to some real or imagined insult or injury. Some of these stalkers are psychopaths -- a person affected with an antisocial personality disorder -- who have no conscience or remorse. They may have paranoid delusions, often feeling that they themselves are victims and are striving to get even.

What to do

In many cases, victims feel they have very little ammunition -- whether legal, technological or tactical -- to stop the abuse. However, there are some things bloggers and other online contributors can do to try to avoid this kind of harassment or at least keep it from crossing into the physical world.

1. Know the trolls' tactics

According to Wood, the first rule for dealing with trolls is to avoid being deceived by them in the first place. Don't trust anything you receive or read without verifying the poster through known, reliable sources, he says. Also, ignore postings or private e-mails that are suspicious, such as those that praise, flatter or evoke a sympathetic response.

2. DFTT

This is one of the more important acronyms in the blog world, meaning, "Don't feed the trolls." "Just like in-person bullies, trolls feed off your reaction," Tim says. "Under no circumstances should you acknowledge the behavior or repay it with anger or defensiveness. If you don't react, they'll get bored and go away."

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