How to get rid of a usenet troll?
November 15, 2004 2:34 PM   Subscribe

TrollFilter: I recently revisited an alt. newsgroup that I hadn't been using for about a year, only to discover that it has been taken over by this irritating troll character. The troll strikes me as someone who is lonely, paranoid, barely sane, lives in the middle of nowhere with lots of cats, and who obsessively posts to the group, off-topic, angrily and aggressively. Something like 4k posts in the past year.

I'm familiar with the conventional wisdom: get a good newsreader with a killfile, ignore the person, or start a moderated group (too much work) or find another forum, such as a web discussion.

I'm wondering--is there any other way to remove this person and restore what used to be a very useful, informative community, other than the above? And by "remove" I am not speaking euphemistically of "terminating with extreme prejudice."

Have you ever been able to spray for trolls successfully?

I can't believe how pissed off I'm getting about this.
posted by mecran01 to Computers & Internet (13 answers total)
Not possible.

"Ray Gordon" and "SOLLOG" and Edmond Wollmann and Ken Pangborn and other famous alt.trolls have flourished for at least a decade, despite the universal loathing in which they are held by all sane people and the number of people who ridicule them relentlessly.

I believe that the only possible way that an NG could get rid of a troll would be to, as a group, agree never to respond to his/her comments, no matter how funny it would be to do so. See if that works.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:43 PM on November 15, 2004

my buds and i started a yahoo group to get away from the trolls, which works great for us because we're insular but not so good for new membership. IOW we were *highly* unsuccessful in getting rid of our trolls, no matter what we did. we tried for years.
posted by tristeza at 2:54 PM on November 15, 2004


1) figure out what that means
2) be sure you don't get there

posted by scarabic at 2:54 PM on November 15, 2004

I suppose if you wanted to blow a few tens of thousands of dollars on it, you could sue and try to get an injunction against further abusive posting, or against posting altogether. Good luck.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:11 PM on November 15, 2004

If you want to skirt the edge of legality, you could launch a denial of service attack on the news server he uses, or if you can catch him right after he posts, at his actual IP address. (Less collateral damage with the latter approach, obviously.)
posted by kindall at 3:15 PM on November 15, 2004

Spoof a post by him/her where you directly threaten the life of the president.

Actually, that might be a bad idea.
posted by j.edwards at 3:25 PM on November 15, 2004

It is not possible. Piss off someone that is already posting that much and they will just be more agressive in their posting habits. Too many providers just do not give a shit if one of their users is spamming newsgroups with hateful, meaningless or crossposted posts. And if you do get them kicked, they will be back with another provider in no time, probably doing everything they can to wreck the group as well.

You might not be dealing with a troll anyway, might be a legit kook in which case you should just killfile him/her and hope others do the same.
posted by bargle at 3:56 PM on November 15, 2004

I'm familiar with the conventional wisdom: get a good newsreader with a killfile, ignore the person, or start a moderated group (too much work) or find another forum, such as a web discussion.

I'm wondering--is there any other way to remove this person and restore what used to be a very useful, informative community...


...other than the above?


No. There's a reason why the conventional wisdom is still what it is.

Aiming to cut them off is unrealistic. But with a firm policy of killfiling and refusing to respond, you and most of the rest of the community can exist in happy ignorance of the troll's antics. Just make sure the community is reaching out to educate newbies early so that they don't ruin a good thing by cluelessly attempt to engage the troll.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 4:11 PM on November 15, 2004

If you want to help make it easier, you could write up a post on how newbies can easily killfile him. Perhaps if you maintain a list of abusive users for the group and distribute it monthly along with the instructions, the user would end up so ignored, they would move elsewhere.

Although, the problem with making a shitlist is that you're giving the idiots more exposure. Oh well. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
posted by shepd at 4:36 PM on November 15, 2004

Response by poster: Yeah, this all sounds like good advice. Starting a moderated group, and then moderating it, sounds like a load of work. I suppose aggressive distributed killfiling is the way to go.
posted by mecran01 at 4:38 PM on November 15, 2004

As someone who survived the September That Never Ended, I can tell you that the problems with Usenet are structural and can't be fixed. Many of us tried, on talk.bizarre, probably for years after we should've hung it up. It was a game of constantly diminishing returns.

There are lots of good web forums around that don't suffer from these structural problems, incorporate efficient moderation, sensible threading, topic grouping, etc, etc. Look into them - I'm having a great old time on this past year, for example.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:26 PM on November 15, 2004

My experience with trolling has been outside of Usenet and mostly with preteens or teens. Sometimes you can talk over them or embarrass them, but the best way to deal with a troll is to never feed it.

But perhaps my experience limits the advice I can give you, since I do moderate a "private" board and several mailing lists. The crowd may be smaller, but the discussion is usually much higher quality since posters aren't stressed out.
posted by somethingotherthan at 10:50 PM on November 15, 2004

I was on a nostalgia trip and went to look at comp.os.os2 the other day. It has been overrun by some pervasive trolls, but they can be ignored because (1) FAQs about the trolls and how to killfile are sent out regularly; and (2) anyone who chooses not to killfile and responds to the trolls uses a [FUD4] tag in their subject line so that the troll-reply will be killfiled as well by those who don't want to see it.
posted by grouse at 4:41 AM on November 16, 2004

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