The title of this post might seem confusing. I mean, who thanks trolls? Those angry, sad individuals who dedicate themselves to spewing hate (especially, it seems, woman-hate and feminist-hate) all over the Internet are hardly contributing members of society, are they? I mean, I can’t begin to say how they spend their time when they’re not trolling, but when they are?
Under “normal” circumstances, I’d say no. They generally contribute nothing to a debate, relying on sweeping generalizations (often, in the case of anti-feminist trolls, repeating MRA talking points) to make their arguments. And they aren’t here to change hearts and minds—they mostly seem not to care about convincing anyone of anything, telling their own stories, or improving life on Planet Earth in any way.
And yet, because they exist and target women and other non-men with violent language and hate (and even rape threats and death threats), and because most people (who aren’t women/non-men on the Internet) never encounter them at their absolute worst, their 31 flavors of bullshit can sometimes serve a higher purpose. When we treat that BS as an illustration of the challenges we face, I believe we (as activists) can show readers how little power most trolls actually have while illustrating for our readers (and other trolls) the weakness of their arguments.
So with that, I’d like to thank my trolls for all these reasons:
- Thank you for targeting me, because that tells me that I’m doing something right. Otherwise, why would you bother?
- Thank you for challenging me: by countering your lazy arguments I not only hone my own reasoning skills, but illustrate for my readers (and the rest of the trolletariat) just how lazy they are and how easily we can deconstruct and disprove them. If nothing else, our exchanges serve as a signpost: All viewpoints are welcome here, but trolls will be dealt with (more on which in a bit).
- Thank you for being just vile enough that you distinguish yourselves from regular people who disagree rudely, allowing me to easily identify and disregard you. This doesn’t mean I won’t reply—just that I don’t give a shit what you have to say. It takes far less energy, and my reserves always seem low these days. So again, thanks for making it easy on me.
- Thank you for those instances when you take the time to write a comment so pointless that I can disregard it completely. I get a lot of comments on some of my posts, and I like to respond to them when I can—it’s extremely considerate of you to allow me to filter you out of that process. I do wonder why you bother, though—did you really think “Your a stupid cunt” was a) a contribution, b) ever going to appear publicly on my page, c) remotely original?
- Thank you for stepping up every single time we need an object lesson on white male privilege and/or MRA/anti-feminist/woman-hate. Whether here, on Facebook, or on Twitter, it’s like you show up just to prove my point. In any conversation about the challenges we face in a patriarchal society, one of you will show up with your cries of “Fucking feminazis!” and “What about the MEN???!” How do you keep a straight face? I can tell you that I do not. I LMFAO on a regular basis, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what you intended.
- And thank you for those laughs. The chuckles, the cackles, the all-out guffaws you provide when you show up in a conversation about our lives and perspectives and wave your pathetic little flag—when you hurl insults as though you believe each one has any impact on me other than annoyance and audible eye-rolls. Thanks for the entertainment. I mean that.
Now, a few methods for…
Dealing with Trolls
Some folks will tell you that ignoring trolls is the best policy. Those folks have apparently never dealt with bullies, or they beat the odds somehow, because as Rocket J. Squirrell famously stated, “That trick never works.” For one thing, more trolls will come, and some will teeter on the dividing line between troll and just rude fucking asshole (i.e., making an argument, not just spewing bile). You won’t be able to ignore them all (trust me, I’ve tried) and dealing with them decisively shows other trolls what they can expect when they visit your blog (or Facebook page or Twitter mentions).
Some of you know that one of my favorite methods of dealing with trolls is the Kitten Setting. It takes time and energy, so I don’t always employ it, but when I have it has been hilarious and pretty rewarding. Fun, even–and that’s not a word most people associate with trolls (except trolls themselves, I imagine).
In general, I don’t recommend engaging trolls. It’s an energy suck and there’s usually no point. They don’t show up to debate but to distract and derail and intimidate. However, as I’ve stated above, sometimes a troll writes something I feel is worthy of a response. Generally, this is not because he (and it’s nearly always “he”) contributed something intelligent to the conversation, but because he’s repeating MRA talking points I want to counter publicly for readers and trolls who happen by. Sometimes I don’t have the energy for this, and I let the comment through hoping my readers will take it on. I’m rarely disappointed—my readers are super smart and trolls are lazy so it’s usually short work to take them apart, and I’m so grateful to those of you who step up and do that. Thank you.
Kill Them With Kindness
This is one of the most challenging methods for me because in order to be kind, I have to feel compassion, and when it comes to trolls that takes some reaching. But understanding that most of them are a) young men or boys, b) social misfits, and c) often just misguided has helped me to find that compassion at times, especially when a troll lets slip a teeny hint of humanity. Sometimes I just have to say “I’m sorry you’re so unhappy, but you can’t play here anymore.” And leave it at that.
Get Out the Ban Hammer
When a troll ceases to be useful and becomes nothing but a sad little voice constantly raging at me from his basement lair, I ban him. There are several ways to do this, including setting his email address as a filtered word or his IP address as “direct to Spam.” Either way, that troll can never darken the doorway of my blog again unless he’s willing to go to a lot more effort to harass me.
Once a troll dedicates himself to an all-out harassment campaign on your blog, it’s possible an email/IP ban will fail as he will create new accounts from new locations in order to troll you. At this point (if you haven’t already) it’s time to contact your friends at WordPress (or your service provider) and report the little fucker. And if that fails for some reason, I recommend contacting the police. Cyber-stalking/harassment laws at this point are weak in many areas, but they don’t get stronger without precedent. Ultimately, if the laws in your location don’t protect you, it might be time to contact your elected officials and find out why.
In the majority of cases, it won’t ever get to that point. Most trolls are dedicated not to trolling one blog but to spreading their love all over the Internet. If you cease to become an easy target, chances are they will move on. Believe me, there is no peace in that thought for me. I don’t want trolls harassing anyone else instead of me (kind of like teaching women to prevent rape teaches us to make sure rapists rape someone else), but there’s only so much I—or any of us—can do. A dedicated troll will pursue his hobby until, like that poor, sad man in Texas, he suffers real consequences for his actions; often the best we can do is buy ourselves some peace and help our readers understand—as I’m trying to do now—that trolls rage precisely because they have no real power (though they may enjoy privilege) over us. They are a pimple on the ass of the Internet, and as such what they mostly do is annoy and irritate (and occasionally weep pus all over the place). They’re ugly and vile but mostly impotent (though they may have an agenda that is not), and I believe it’s important that we treat them as such and avoid expending our energies either arguing with them or worrying overly about the things they say. By this, I don’t mean we should ignore what they do. Just don’t let them drain your resources if you can help it.
Whatever you do, don’t let them intimidate you into silence.*
(Note: Trolls can do real damage, such as when they target traumatized people, bully young people telling them to kill themselves, or make threats that genuinely make one feel unsafe, which is where the police may be helpful—if you see something, say something.)
So here’s to eventually popping that zit and slapping a Band-Aid on it. But in the meantime, I hope the information above helps you in some small way to deal with the trolls you encounter. If you have a favorite method I haven’t mentioned here, I’d love to hear it.
In closing, just one more word of thanks to my trolls: for the laughs, the object lessons, and the challenges. For often making my point even better than I did. For providing the constant illustration of the fact that women speaking out are still a threat to men who fear that they have little enough power already and might lose even more. And finally, thanks for providing grist for yet another blog post to which you will no doubt flock and serve all these purposes all over again.
*Sometimes you have to take a break or even stop what you’re doing altogether and practice self-care. Do that without hesitation! I’m not saying you should keeping doing what you’re doing no matter what it costs you—I’m just saying don’t give them power they don’t have. I hope that makes sense.
PS: For Twitter, there’s BlockBot. Seems pretty cool.
PPS: Honestly, I have a way harder time dealing with push-back from friends and allies than I do hateful bullshit, so in case you’re new at this, be prepared for that to hurt way more than anything trolls can say to you.
Update (11/13): I’ve made some minor tweaks to this article to clarify—and reflect minor changes in—my philosophy. Also, four months later, and zero trolls have hit this post. WTF, trolls?
- They Are Not Trolls—They Are Men. (makemeasammich)
- Misogynist Trolls Have An Agenda, And It’s Not Lulz (The Raw Story) Amanda Marcotte (with help from Paul Mason and Lindy West) makes some really good points in this piece about trolls and their agenda to silence women.
- Is there a tech solution for hatred of women? (BBC)
- Don’t Ignore the Trolls. Feed Them Until They Explode. (The Amazing Lindy West on Jezebel)
- How to deal with Trolls (writeami.wordpress.com)
- The Kitten Setting (whatever)
- The Kitten Setting: An Experiment (makemeasammich)
- How to Catch a Misogynist (makemeasammich)
- Dear Trolls: Here’s Your Sammich! (makemeasammich) (Seems I’ve thanked my trolls more than once! I’m good like that.)
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
I’m exceedingly proud to have worked on the #FBrape campaign to end gendered hate speech on Facebook, and of our success in getting the corporate giant to back down. It was an exhausting week, but the rewards were many, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. Not even to avoid the inevitable trolling that has followed.
Yeah, they did. It’s amazing to me how many people seem to think that rape culture on Facebook is something to be protected and defended by coming to #FBrape and calling campaigners “bitches” and “cunts” and “fascists” and claiming that our victory is some kind of blow to everything thinking people ought to hold dear.
I just can’t even. But as I said, I’m proud, exhausted, and mostly satisfied. We did an important thing, and we’re still doing it.
Here are a few things I took away from the campaign:
- We need each other: Women are sick and tired of being in the majority and yet being treated as though our right to safe public spaces don’t matter. We are fighting back. Thousands of us pulled together, and we couldn’t have done it any other way.
- We need men: Rape culture will not go away unless men participate in the fight. Many men joined us in the #FBrape campaign, and their voices helped so much to counter those who showed up to ridicule us. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, men who campaigned, for being with us during this week of intensive work.
- We need our allies to be present during our struggles, not just during our successes: Feminists who couldn’t seem to find time for the campaign while it was happening are jumping on the bandwagon (and the popularity of the hashtag) now that we’ve won. I can’t help but wonder where they were when the hard work was getting done. I hoped for better.*
- We’re ending rape culture: Ending rape culture on Facebook is a huge step toward ending it in society as a whole. Facebook is a microcosm of our society. It is a community that has set a standard of behavior for its members, and finally, it has stated for the record that violence against women is strictly counter to that standard. Their response was very corporate, but it was a complete turnaround from their “our system is working” response three days previous. There is work to be done. We have to keep them honest. But this is a WIN and I’m CELEBRATING.
- This is not about free speech: Free speech, while important, is only one of our civil rights. Much as your right to own a gun doesn’t preclude my right to not get shot, your right to free speech does not trump my right not to be surrounded by images suggesting that beating, raping, and killing people like me is acceptable, expected, and funny. This is hate speech, it encourages (read: incites) violence against women, and it cannot be tolerated in civilized society anymore than we allow racists to harass and threaten people of color in public spaces. We don’t. We can’t. My right to exist safely trumps every rape-joker’s right to free speech, and I will fight to ensure that my right—and every other woman’s—is protected.
*This is not directed at anyone who is likely to read this, but at high-profile professional feminists (the most conspicuous of whom was Sheryl Sandberg, of course) who suddenly had articles in major publications after Facebook caved. It just made me a little sad, that’s all.
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
May 31, 2013 | Categories: Men, Rape Culture, Women | Tags: Facebook, FBrape, feminism, Freedom of speech, Hate speech, Margaret Mead, misogyny, rape, rape culture, sexism, Social media, Violence against women, women | 35 Comments
UPDATE: FACEBOOK AGREES TO MAKE CHANGES!
From the official WAM statement:
Last Tuesday, Women, Action & the Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and author/activist Soraya Chemaly launched a campaign to call on Facebook to take concrete, effective action to end gender-based hate speech on its site. Since then, participants sent over 60,000 tweets and 5000 emails, and our coalition has grown to over 100 women’s movement and social justice organizations.
Today, we are pleased to announce that Facebook has responded with a important commitment to refine its approach to hate speech. Facebook has admirably done more than most other companies to address this topic in regards to content policy. In a statement released today, Facebook addressed our concerns and committed to evaluating and updating its policies, guidelines and practices relating to hate speech, improving training for its content moderators and increasing accountability for creators of misogynist content.
Facebook has also invited Women, Action & the Media, The Everyday Sexism Project and members of our coalition to contribute to these efforts and be part of an ongoing conversation. As part of these efforts, we will work closely with Facebook on the issue of how Community Standards around hate speech are evaluated and to ensure best practices represent the interests of our coalition.
For details regarding Facebook’s response, please visit here.
Thank you so much to everyone who helped. Let’s all get involved in this conversation and keep them honest, shall we?
Read the New York Times editorial.
NOTE: Trigger warnings for rape, abuse, racism, and corporate assholery. Also, this post is updated regularly with news, FAQ, and new action items. See large headers throughout the article.
It’s gone on far too long. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Facebook’s wacky double-standard (triple? quadruple?) that says this is not ok:
But then, this happens:
The woman behind Rapebook did her best, but eventually had to give up the fight because she’d been targeted with rape and death threats and she has a family to think about.
Now Women, Action, and the Media has teamed up with The Everyday Sexism Project and writer/activist Soraya Chemaly to launch the #FBrape campaign to hold Facebook’s feet to the fire by targeting their advertisers (and in turn, holding their feet to the fire). Make Me a Sammich signed on to the Open Letter to Facebook, and I’ve been tweeting about this all week (along with thousands of others), and some companies have responded. Some have pulled their ads. Others have made excuses.
Today I received a letter from WAM founder and activist dynamo Jaclyn Friedman alerting signatories that today is especially important:
We’re writing because today is a KEY day in our campaign. We can tell you that we’re currently in conversation with Facebook, and they’re considering their response. We also know that several of the companies we’re targeting are in “crisis mode” from all the backlash they’ve received, and are putting enormous pressure on Facebook to end this soon. We believe that if we make today our biggest day yet, we could have a real win on our hands.
Loyal readers and friends, I need you to join me in making today count. Take action on the action page, thank advertisers who opted to do the right thing by women and pressure the ones who did not on the follow-up page. Share this post with your networks. Share my Facebook post. Retweet Jenn Pozner’s tweet.
This is a golden opportunity to make some real, positive change. I’m not going to kid myself that if we lose this battle, we’re all giving up Facebook. That doesn’t work for at least two reasons: 1) We all rely on the communities we have built on Facebook and I, for one, won’t abandon mine; 2) This fight, as Soraya Chemaly pointed out on Twitter recently, is partly about public spaces and the fact that women shouldn’t have to remove themselves from such spaces to feel safe.
But I’m in this to win. I hope you’ll join me.
Wait, what? I haven’t seen any of these “rape pages” and I don’t believe Facebook would EVER allow the sort of thing you’re describing!
Here are some VERY GRAPHIC examples of the pages and images Facebook has deemed acceptable.
Here is an example of a VERY GRAPHIC page a user reported, and the response they received from Facebook. This is the standard response those of us who report these images receive from Facbook. That’s why we’re making all this noise.
Why are you targeting advertisers? Facebook needs to change. Target them!
This fight has been ongoing for several years, and Facebook claims that they are doing everything they can. And yet, reporting pages depicting violence against women results in this statement again and again:
But advertisers can’t choose which pages their ads appear on, can they?
No, they can’t. So the only way to make Facebook take this seriously is for those companies to take violence against women seriously enough to pull their ads if Facebook won’t fix this.
Read WAM’s FAQ with lots more information.
UPDATE: 3/27: Dear Zappos – You Get an F
Yesterday I sent this tweet to @ZapposStyle [TW]:
Today I got this response:
Seriously, Zappos? That’s still your response after all these days?
Ok, just for starters? If we weren’t at the start of this campaign (which most of us were), we’re all very well aware now of how Facebook ads work because companies like yours keep using the Facebook ad system as an excuse for the fact that you are sponsoring rape and abuse pages. Secondly, if it wasn’t clear from the previous sentence: you ARE sponsoring hate and abuse pages by continuing to give Facebook your ad dollars. It’s just not that complicated.
Look, before this campaign started, I was a customer and a fan. I bought my last pair of shoes from a Facebook ad for Zappos. But you are seriously blowing my entire image of you right now (with apologies to John Bender, but I know he’d understand). You are pouring so much money into Facebook that I can’t I refresh one of these rape pages twice without seeing at least one–sometimes two–your ads. You ARE sponsoring rape and abuse pages. You just are.
“We recommend clicking X to delete the ad.”
I dont even know where to start. How about here:
The sentence in bold type above assumes that I’m hanging out on these pages for fun, and the offensive thing is that HOLY SHIT, THERE’S A ZAPPPOS AD! QUICK, HIT THE LITTLE EX AND MAKE IT GO AWAY!!!!
Zappos, this response is so full of fail, I’m surprised you fit it into two tweets.
PS: Readers, here’s a sample tweet you can copy and send to Zappos to let them know what you think of this response:
Ok, Facebook is fighting back. Today they pulled advertising from pages like [TRIGGER WARNING] this one and this one and this one, so now advertisers don’t have to worry that their ads might appear next to rapey images. Will advertisers be happy? Certainly. Am I? Not even a little bit. This move is a direct attack on our ability to pressure Facebook via its advertisers–it appears to me to be a statement from Facebook that they’ve heard our cries, but have no intention of changing their internal policies.
Earlier in this post I said I would not abandon my community on Facebook. But their reaction to this so far makes it impossible for me to promise to stand by that. Interestingly, I received a request to fill out a Facebook survey today. Here’s what I told them in the comments section at the end:
Of course, “minorities” is probably the wrong word these days, but I think they’ll get my drift.
Today I receive this tweet from a new account claiming to be an official Facebook policy Twitter.
Naturally, I was skeptical, both about the authenticity of the account and about the statement they linked me to:
FYI: Here’s a note I received from Trista Hendren, creator of Rapebook:
“I have been talking to FB for over 6 months – directly. I have all the emails. They are very much aware of what is on their site.”
Having just received private message to my Facebook page containing a link from a reader to a nasty-ass rape page I could see with my very own eyes, I responded:
Nothing. I took a screenshot of one of the images on that page and tweeted it as further evidence. Then I refreshed and the page was gone. And so was “Offensive Humor at its Best,” one of the pages many (but not nearly all) examples have come from. (The @FacebookUO account tweeted that statement exactly six times, then went silent. I’m assuming it was created as some kind of damage control attempt, and that they abandoned it when they realized their statement was a major fail. Then again, maybe someone created an account to defend FB–but that seems less likely. I’m going with Occam on this one.)
Is this victory? I’m sorry, but I don’t think so. Not yet. I mean, the way that page disappeared without a word impressed me at first, but it ultimately felt more like they were trying to support their statement that this problem doesn’t really exist rather than actually doing something to solve the very real problem we’re fighting. And just reread that statement. Here, let me interpret it for you:
“We took care of this a long time ago using our existing system that works very well, but some malcontents on Twitter have been resharing the images as though they’re still online. No fair!”
Sorry, Facebook, but no. You don’t get to claim that your system works. And you don’t get to claim that you’ve made some sort of instaprestochange and this is all fixed. Know why? Because right before this all happened I reported this image:
…and got this in response:
When your moderators don’t recognize a KKK robe as a hate symbol, your system is broken. When your moderators don’t recognize jokes about beating and raping and killing women as hate speech, your system is broken. Facebook: YOUR SYSTEM IS BROKEN.
This isn’t over. I’ve asked @FacebookUO if they’ll clarify the policy changes, and I’ve forwarded this image to them. I’m also looking forward to hearing from the leaders of this campaign regarding what official word they might have received. I’ll let you know as soon as I know anything.
Oh, also? These still exist (trigger warnings) [UPDATE: A number of these have been removed. I’m weeding them out and adding new ones as I find them.]:
Tweet the Media:
Please contact media folks and ask them to get up to speed on the campaign and cover us on this week:
Media Matters for America
Tweet to @mmfa
Rachel Maddow (MSNBC)
Tweet to @maddow
Melissa Harris-Perry (MSNBC)
Tweet to @MHarrisPerry
Ann Curry (MSNBC)
Tweet to @AnnCurry
Tamron Hall (MSNBC)
Tweet to @TamronHall
Nicholas Kristof (NYT)
Tweet to @NickKristof
Martha Raddatz (ABC)
Tweet to @MarthaRaddatz
Whoopi Goldberg (The View)
Tweet to @WhoopiGoldberg
Joy Behar (Say Anything)
Tweet to @JoyVBehar
Sara Gilbert (The Talk on CBS)
Tweet to @THEsaragilbert
Julie Chen (The Talk)
Tweet to @JulieChen
Sharon Osbourne (The Talk)
Tweet to @MrsSOsbourne
Aisha Tyler (The Talk)
Tweet to @aishatyler
Sheryl Underwood (The Talk)
Tweet to @SherylUnderwood
The Talk on CBS
Tweet to @TheTalk_CBS
Melissa Block (All Things Considered on NPR)
Tweet to @NPRmelissablock
Audie Cornish (All Things Considered)
Tweet to @nprAudie
Fresh Air (NPR)
Tweet to @NPRFreshAir
Xeni Jardin (BoingBoing)
Tweet to @xeni
Stephanie Miller (Stephanie Miller Show)
Tweet to @smshow
Here are some tweets for companies not yet on the action list at WAM. You can copy (more impact coming from individuals) or retweet these to help put pressure on these companies to respond to the campaign:
- Facebook’s hate speech problem (salon.com)
- Facebook’s big misogyny problem | Soraya Chemaly (guardian.co.uk)
- 10 Pictures you are NOT Seeing on #FBrape ***Trigger Warning (Feminist Admins Support)
- Facebook’s violently sexist pages are an opportunity for feminists | Emer O’Toole (guardian.co.uk)
- How much intolerance does it take? (deliberatedonkey.wordpress.com)
- I’m confused Facebook… (Trigger warning) (amazingsusansblog.wordpress.com)
Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.
May 24, 2013 | Categories: Dark Places, Equality, Rape Culture, Women | Tags: "women action and the media", Advertising, Everyday Sexism, Facebook, FBrape, Jaclyn Friedman, media, Open letter, rape, Social media, Soraya Chemaly, twitter, Violence against women, women | 45 Comments
Make Me a Sammich is now on Twitter. Actually, I have been for a while now…I just hadn’t gotten around to mentioning it. But here I am on a Saturday with about this much [ ] energy so I figured it was a good day to toss this out there and say “Hey, if you’re on Twitter, do that thing where you follow me, and I’ll reciprocate, and we’ll be Twitter friends! Yay!”
And if you haven’t yet joined me on Facebook, have a look in the sidebar for the Facebook thingy and click “Like.” Cover all your bases, people! You never know where you’ll be when you need a sammich!
Yes, it’s true: I am in seek of external validation. I need you to like me! So I went and got a Facebook page, and now you can with very little effort on your part. You’ll find the Facebook-likey-widget-thing just to the right, there. If you’re on Facebook, I’d be ever so grateful if you’d click the button–when you do, I get a little pellet of ego-boo! (Seriously, it pops right out of a little hatch in my monitor. It’s delicious and it makes me happy. You want me to be happy, don’t you? DON’T YOU??) Also, we’ll be together on Facebook where All The Things happen! (Things happen on the Twitter, too, and I will make a Twitter account very soon.)
What are you waiting for? Come on, click the button. You know you want to…