"There is an urgent need to understand why people troll.
Recent Australian estimates show about one in three internet users have
experienced online harassment.
Across several research studies, I have attempted to construct the
psychological profile of those who trolls to harm others.
In my most recent study, conducted with Genevieve Steele, I wanted to
see if trolling could be linked to self-esteem. Do people troll because
they have low self-worth?"
"Results showed that gender, psychopathy, and sadism were all
significant independent predictors of malevolent trolling. That is, if
you are male, have high psychopathy, or high sadism, you are more likely
The most powerful predictor of trolling was sadism. The more someone
enjoys hurting others, the more likely it is they will troll.
Self-esteem was not an independent predictor of trolling.
However, we found self-esteem interacts with sadism. So, if a person had
high levels of sadism and high self-esteem, they were more likely to
troll. This result was unexpected because low self-esteem has predicted
other antisocial online behaviour, such as cyberbullying."
"It appears the popular refrain is correct: don’t feed the trolls and
give them the hurt or angry response they are looking for.
This does not mean we should just ignore this behaviour. People who
commit this type of cyber abuse should still be held accountable for
I propose we change the narrative. Trolls are not to be feared — their
power lies in the reactions they cause.
One way we can start is to become active bystanders. Bystanders are
those who witness the trolling. Active bystanders intervene and say
“this is not okay”.
Don’t fight fire with fire. Respond with outward indifference and strict
no tolerance. Let’s work together to dismantle the power of the troll
and take back the internet from their influence.
It is not only up to the person experiencing the trolling to respond and
manage the behaviour. We all need to take responsibility for our online
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics