How common is it for trolls to track you over different sites for years at a time?
April 24, 2010 9:37 AM   Subscribe

How common is it to have internet trolls stalk you across multiple sites, blogs, etc. over the course of years?

I just had yet another person who I banned years ago, track me down, on a friend's blog (and they're not friended or in common circles) to talk at me. This would be the fifth person to do so in the last few years (Yes, the 5 people are indeed different folks from completely different arenas and topics).

To be sure, I write a lot about social justice, so I expect yahoos in that field, but apparently I also get the crazy in talking about games.

Given that I hold no official position or power that would make my opinions extra important, I'm curious if this is normal or I'm just a magnet for the extra obsessive?

(I know this question can only be answered with anecdata, but I'm still really interested)
posted by yeloson to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should also add that I'm quite comfortable with the measures I have taken to dealing with them, so far that hasn't been a problem, really. I'm mostly interested in how common this is.
posted by yeloson at 9:39 AM on April 24, 2010

I've had ths happen to me I think twice in the last five years where someone from MeFi or another site that I frequent went and found me other places [public places like Wikipedia or my own blog] and started commenting there in vaguely weird ways. I mean I've gotten the random hate mail that I have no idea where it comes from, but only twice has this happened from identifiable people, and both people didn't think they were being trollish, they just sort of got a bee in their bonnet about some opinion of mine [and yeah social justice oriented] and wanted to badger me about it in multiple places. So I think it's normal to have it happen once in a while. My standard response is no response at all. If people are actually literally threatening you or otherwise harassing you, I'd suggest another approach, but total ignore works for me most of the time.
posted by jessamyn at 9:42 AM on April 24, 2010

Response by poster: Yeah, these are folks who I explicitly said, "We're not talking anymore" and banned, so it's not like they're unaware that my stance is that it's done.

And yeah, no threats (well, I did get linked from 4chan a few years back and got 14,000 hits of slurs and threats. Which is about what you can expect from there...) but basically I'm not worried on that front.
posted by yeloson at 9:49 AM on April 24, 2010

I've had it twice based on being the son of prominent blogger. People have followed me onto my blog and other sites. There's nothing that makes my blog or my opinions particularly more important than anyone else's, and I don't know what about me would make me very interesting to follow around. Though I might express some controversial opinions on hot issues, they're clearly not being driven by that kind of content. These two people have done this for years, frequently creating new Blogger accounts to comment on my blog in an apparent attempt to prevent me from recognizing that it's them. (I always delete their comments, which are consistently written in a way that seems designed to not be obviously offensive to someone casually scanning them but are always vaguely, annoyingly insulting.) They have an uncannily similar style, which has made me wonder if they're really the same person -- but, like you, I'm sure they're not the same since they live very far away from each other. However, it is possible that they know each other and are communicating, which could be the case with your stalkers too. I'm leaving out most of the details here since they might even read this and I wouldn't want to encourage them. (I also recommend not interacting with them at all -- I never send messages to them or respond to their comments.) Apparently some people just get a kick out of following a specific person around and trying to pester them. It's juvenile and pointless, but it happens.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:06 AM on April 24, 2010

From what I have heard from online friends over the years, this is dirt common. Yes, some folks are just crazy magnets, and I guess you're one of them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:12 AM on April 24, 2010

I think unfortunately it is very common and it doesn't seem to matter if you change usernames or if it's social justice/gaming/knitting/etc. The internet has a very long memory and unfortunately shitty people use this to their stalkery advantage. It hasn't happened to me, but has happened to others I know.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 10:17 AM on April 24, 2010

Yeah, it's somewhat common. It's far too easy to stalk someone on the internet, apparently, and the anonymity only encourages it. I've had the same problem with other video gamers. People are far too passionate about their hobby. My only advice would be to change your username. I generally just use common words as my username now, to avoid being "tracked".
posted by Dreamcast at 10:42 AM on April 24, 2010

Yes. For being a girl gamer, apparently. Only two people over the last six or seven years, but it's still unsettling. One of them did the whole real world and internet stalking thing for about two years, which was scary and thankfully over now. The other just followed me from a game server, using my then-handle, into my WOW guild's site to ask about me, and then ended up commenting on my nephew's blog, because I just deleted any comments he made on my personal blog.

I don't think it's that uncommon, to be honest. Some people are just weird, and sometimes they just latch on to you for some reason. Yay for domain privacy services...
posted by gemmy at 10:53 AM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I would estimate that, for a male, your troll-stalker quotient is a little bit high. I don't know a lot of men with that many, over "the last few years." (If it were a decade I'd say that's about right.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 10:56 AM on April 24, 2010

I guess it would be common enough... I'm not very high profile but I've had a few of these stalkers... one still coming at me from time to time after five years.
posted by _paegan_ at 11:15 AM on April 24, 2010

Common. I had a friend who was hounded for years, and it finally escalated to the degree that he had to take real-world action against the person.

I've encountered it myself on a lesser level, but managed to lose them at last. I think.
posted by OolooKitty at 11:47 AM on April 24, 2010

I've gathered that it's extremely common on MeFi, though not so much in the stalking capacity as in the more info capacity. In both arguments and in responses to AskMes I've seen people tak about checking posting histories, twitter feeds, facebooks, etc. On here, I assume that my internet presence is on the table. I don't know if this is relavent to what you're talking about.

More certainly relavent is the guy that followed me around on Facebook after I called him out in a comment for being internet-creepy to a female friend of mine. He'd say things like, "WHO'S THE CREEP NOW??!?!" apropos of nothing in the comment threads of people he didn't know. It stopped when I told him something like, "You're being about a thousand times more creepy and inappropriate by following me around wildly defending your ego. If you have something to say, youc an message me." He didn't.
posted by cmoj at 12:09 PM on April 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've had it happen back when I had an online journal and participated in some political/feminist communities. Two people kind of internet "stalked" me. One was far more unsettling than the other. Writing about your life, publicly, can kind of create a sort of one-way bond that is kind of weird.
posted by amanda at 12:17 PM on April 24, 2010

I'd be of the opinion that the likelyhood of trolls tracking you down is going to vary quite a bit depending on: 1.) the areas of the internet you hang out on.., 2.) the attitude/interaction you have on those sites (IE = the more controversial you are, the higher likelyhood someone will be tempted to research more about you).. 3.) the uniformity of your avatars across multiple sites. (meaning = if you use similar/same account names, it's going to be terribly easy to track you down.)....and maybe 4.) the research-skills of said troll.
posted by jmnugent at 12:25 PM on April 24, 2010

5.) Whether or not you opt in to including various places you frequent in your profile. For example, here at MeFi members have links in their profiles showing where you can find them on other sites like Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Sometimes it's just a matter of connecting the dots.
posted by NoraCharles at 1:02 PM on April 24, 2010

This used to happen to me a lot -- though I'm not online as much as I used to be in any way so it doesn't happen as much.

But my friend (to whom this also happened quite often) and I had a theory that it was sort of like how they say animals can sense fear and will react accordingly -- that crazy Internet beasts could spot us because though we may have put on a brave and bold and/or irreverent face, even in these semi-anonymous worlds, we still were fairly nice guys and quite interested in what others thought of us and took these interactions very seriously. In other words (and I say this not as a diss because I think its actually a quality characteristic for a person to have) they could smell that we were the type of people who were going to be so bothered by people's behavior that we'd remember them and also ask a question like this on AskMe -- and that just made us more 'attractive' (and sometimes even that kind of no quotes attractive) to them.

So while others might not have the same "luck" with people like this, there might be reasons why you do. That's at least my theory.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:00 PM on April 24, 2010

It's happened to me too. One girl just didn't get that I didn't want her around anymore and kept trying to sign up for my gaming forums with different emails and IDs. She went through the whole "free speech on the internet, you can't ban me" to which I had to reply that when she clicked "agree" to the forum rules, she agreed to join my privately-paid-for site and she could only be there if I wanted her to be.

I've had a couple follow me to other sites like Wikipedia as well.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:36 PM on April 24, 2010

Nthing that it happens to me too.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:50 PM on April 24, 2010

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