The election cycle is upon us again, and with it comes a flurry of online and offline activities. The period will see an increase in online activities, especially political discussions. But, it goes beyond the discussions. There will also be a flurry of fake news, and malicious actors will spread fictitious events and politically motivated messages on social media. Fake news has always played a role in elections, peddled by trolls, and fake news was, in fact, one of the active ingredients that shaped the 2016 elections that brought in President Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States.
Who is a troll? A troll is an ugly creature others don’t want to associate with on or offline. On social media, a troll is a person or bot behind an account deliberately set up to provoke other people online. A social media troll is out to wreak havoc, and they say things that are not true in a bid to cause outrage. Trolls can also be referred to as keypad warriors as they can start conflict while hiding anonymously behind their keypads. Even though they seem untouchable, peaceful online users can handle trolls.
A few pointers can be of help: Trolls are not looking for a resolution. You often look for a resolution when you are in a discussion. You are looking to reach a middle point where all parties are satisfied with a compromise. Not trolls; they are out for battle. The first rule of thumb is to know what you are dealing with.
Once you confirm you are dealing with a troll, the first rule of thumb is to ignore them. Deprive them of the fun Ignore them! Do not give a troll the pleasure of engagement. Trolls want to get you upset; deprive them of the life force. They will move elsewhere if they can’t get the fun with you. This always works! Respond with facts. Have you encountered trolls spreading rumors, misinformation, and outright lies? One of the ways you can survive keypad warriors is to respond with facts. Once you respond with facts, don’t entertain the troll beyond the replies. One thing a troll hates is a fact, especially if the troll is in the business of spreading misinformation. Diffuse with humor This is hard to do, but if you have the latitude for it, you can diffuse the antics of a troll using humor. Using humor can be a good balancing point for neutralizing trolls. In addition, humor can help pull things off as you will have a reply that the troll will not expect. Block them If you try all other approaches that don’t seem effective, block trolls! Yes, block them already.
If the troll has violated any platform rules, ensure you submit a report before you block the troll. If a troll takes things too far, perhaps they issue death threats to life and property; you should block the troll and report them to the appropriate authorities. In the end, you can survive trolls and keypad warriors. Yes, you can!
This article was written and prepared by the Community Initiatives to Promote Peace project, CIPP. CIPP is a USAID-funded project that aims to promote peaceful coexistence and collaboration in Nigeria by mitigating violent conflict in at-risk communities in Nigeria. The social media campaign component of the project is all about enlightening Nigerians on the dangers of spreading fake news, rumors, and hate speech on social media, as it contributes to the violent conflict and insecurity that affects us all. The social media campaign is currently in its second season, and this year, we are solely focused on promoting positive election behaviors ahead of the 2023 general elections.