What Is an Internet Troll?

An Internet troll is a person or group that attempts to disrupt others while they are online. Trolls have been around since the 1980s when Internet bulletin boards were first being used.

When a news story is posted or a person posts a new blog entry, an Internet troll may say something insulting, mean or even threatening to get a reaction, often preferring to instigate some sort of argument. In troll-speak, this is called "getting lolz." Lolz is the mangling of the common web acronym "LOL," for "laugh out loud." The trolls' objective is to fluster and embarrass their target. Some trolls are relatively harmless, making rude or obnoxious comments and going on their way to their next target. However, some Internet trolling has resulted in devastating consequences, especially when the trolling crosses a line and becomes bullying.

Not all trolls are necessarily mean or have the objective of causing distress to individuals. One of the most common troll hangouts, 4chan, also spawned Anonymous, a group of hackers wearing Guy Fawkes masks that stage protests around the world. Some trolls operate completely under the cover of anonymity, while others have known handles and are well-known in the areas where they troll.