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troll, trolling


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Guest sheridans_world

As far as newsgroups are concerned(alot is related to forums):



Subject: 3. What is a troll?


There are four basic types of Troll.




Subject: 3.1 The old definition


The old definition of a Troll is one who posts to generate

the maximum number of follow ups. These are a very minor

irritation, and can be considered to be advantageous to





Subject: 3.2 The Irritating Troll


Some merely post drivel, or tirades against netnannies and

netcops, often at a BI of over 20. In general they cause

little real damage to newsgroups.




Subject: 3.3 The destructive Troll


In about the year 1999 a new breed of Troll appeared who

have the declared intention of destroying a specific Target

newsgroup. This is done by a variety of posts, (see

Section 4) intended to drive normal posters away from the

specific newsgroup.


When the percentage of Troll posts, including followups

exceeds about 75% of the total posts, most readers seem to

just give up and unsubscribe. Usenet, and particularly the

uk.local.* hierarchy is for most users a hobby and if that

hobby ceases to be enjoyable, the obvious answer is just to

find another hobby.


Once a specific Target newsgroup has been laid waste as

was uk.local.birmingham it becomes a Old Target newsgroup,

This happened in about February 2000 it is being maintained a

wasteground by crossposts from the current Target ng.

Alt.astrology.metapsych at the time of writing is totally

destroyed by destructive trolls. This is repported at:



Here is a useful FAQ that explains what has happened to

the group I created alt.astrology.metapsych:






Subject: 3.4 The nasty Troll


If anyone does anything which will interfere with the

troll's ability to cause mayhem, they can become very

nasty, posting from obviously incorrect variations of the

name etc. insults, call them netcops, netnannies,



Various off usenet methods are also used to force the

victim to stop posting: Subscribing the victim to hundreds

of unwanted pornographic email newsletters, and sites.

Complaining to employers about non existent misdemeanours.

Sending garbage emails without indication of sender.

Telephone calls at dead of night. Harassing the close

relatives of victims.




Subject: 3.5 The evil and illegal Troll


If anyone does anything which will interfere with the

troll's ability to cause mayhem, they also forge posts in

that persons name and internet address and libel them on

usenet. Both these are illegal.




Subject: 3.6 How they are organised


They use private listservers to communicate between

themselves. An archive of one such listserver is at

http://www.uklocaltrolls.fs2.com. For less important

communications, they use Troll Communications newsgroup(s).


The listserver must have an owner(s) who can approve or

deny access. Other than that anarchy reigns where each

member does what he/she thinks fit. Thus because no leader

or committee exists coordination with the group is

impossible. Any agreement reached with one or more can

instantly be abrogated by others.


Coordinated action can occur where it forwards their

general aims.




Subject: 4. What do they do?


There are several quite formalised methods of trolling.

Non of these actions occurring singly or in moderation

indicate a troll attack. When they occur in combination or

large amounts they may indicate a troll attack.




Subject: 4.1 Drivel


Posts without interesting content are simple to produce.

Cascades have a long history on usenet, usually containing

wordplays round a specific theme. The Trolls version is a

cascade of drivel. two persons working online to the same

newsserver can throw a thread between themselves and create

very large numbers of posts. One person can throw a thread

between two or more sockpuppets.




Subject: 4.2 The crosspost Troll


This is perhaps the most effective Troll in that it

produces large numbers of posts with little effort from the

Troll. An inflammatory post is made to a group of Sub

Target newsgroups, say cooking, politics or guns. The

Target Newsgroup is included in the ng list. The innocent

posters to the Sub Target newsgroup continue to discuss

this in the normal way without noticing that the posts are

also going to the Target Newsgroup.


This is commonly combined with The Request for Assistance





Subject: 4.3 The Request for Assistance.


This is similar to The crosspost Troll but it is

crossposted to Troll Communications newsgroup(s). Thus any

Troll subscribed to a Troll Communications Newsgroup(s),

may troll newsgroups to which he/she is not subscribed.

An example <snipped> where uk.local.yorkshire is the

Target newsgroup is:


From: "Sharon Thorman" <Sharon@hotmail.net>

Newsgroups: alt.golf.perfect-impact,alt.fan.karl-malden.nose,




Subject: Re: Troll Owned and Operated

Date: Wed, 28 Aug 2002 10:36:57 -0400

Organization: Altopia Corp. - Usenet Access -


Message-ID: <akinab$qot$0@pita.alt.net>

References: <1e75b4dd9bc46d05f93670d9bf359a06@xganon.com>

xganon <remailer@xganon.com> wrote in message


> Please add alt.golf.perfect-impact to all x-poastes.

> We need traffic to be eligible for valuable prizes.



It is commonly combined with The crosspost Troll




Subject: 4.4 General nastiness


The Target newsgroup is flooded with nastiness, name

calling and swearing, and flame wars, mostly between

themselves. This can be a great off put to new



An interesting variation is for one of their number

purports to object to swearing, while encouraging others,

off newsgroup, in the practice.




Subject: 4.5 Personal attacks on individuals and groups.


Selected individuals are subjected to quite vicious

personal attacks throughout usenet. Examples are: ":censored:s

animals!" "is a cannibal" "is a hermaphrodite!" "is a

molester of boys" "in panties gets :censored:ed up the arse" "is

a Nazi!" "is a cocksucking queer" "is a hermaphrodite just

like Maryanne Kehoe" "molests boys on American Airlines"

"Sexually harassed by" "is an anthrax pervert" "AT GAY

PARTY" "sucks his father's cock" "is a pervert" "hated

wherever he goes!" "White Racist" "Usenet spammer!" "Usenet

k00k!" "I hope you die SOON".


As will be seen several of these are libelous, and

thus illegal


Groups such as the regular posters are attacked similarly,




Subject: 4.6 Forgeries


They regularly forge the identities of posters who they do

not like. This can vary from badly spelled versions of

their name and/or email address, to forgeries which the

average reader would not be able to detect.


At times this can reach a bizarre condition where they

troll using a forged identity at a Breidbart Index of well

over 20. They then at every opportunity call the victim a



Larting the offender is often effective because ISPs recognise

the seriousness of this offence.


Where Forgery is done via an anonymous remailer complaints

to abuse@thelastremailerinthechain may well be effective.

The remailers administrators do not like their facilities

being misused, and have ways of combatting this. It is

also worth registering with





Subject: 4.7 Setting X-No-Archive: Yes


There are several usenet archive sites where posts are kept

for ever. If one is doing something underhand, illegal, or

very nasty, it is an advantage to do the dirty deed, create

mayhem, and then let all evidence disappear when the servers

delete the posts when they are 7 days old or whatever limit

is set on that server.


This can be compared with a town centre with CCTV cameras,

where the vandals begin a systematic to trashing of an area

by disabling the CCTV system.


When combined with other practises in this section X-

No-Archive: Yes can be particularly damaging.




Subject: 4.8 On Topic Trolls


A bizzare troll post has emerged where On Topic posts are

used to troll a newsgroup.


There is a WWW site which contains out of copyright

Yorkshire Dialect poetry and readings. This site has

been copied and each poen individually posted to

uk.local.yorkshire in a single day.


This is very irritating but disobeys no ISP or Usenet



Several other vareiants of this troll have been seen.




Subject: 4.9 Disrupting usenet


Usenet and its procedures were designed in the days when

usenet was a group of likeminded organisations and

individuals, working together to create a worthwhile whole.

It was not designed to withstand sustained attack by those

intent on destroying usenet.


The Trolls disrupting usenet by using the holes in existing

rules to harm usenet. This is normally done in the

*.config and *.management newsgroups.




Subject: 4.10 Hipcrime


This is a program which splits a large file into sections

and creates an individual post from each section. It also

has other functions, not relevant here.


On one particular night they posted 1700+ posts a total of

30Mbytes+. On another ocasion they posted many identical

copies of freeware programs each copy being more than

100kBytes long.




Subject: 4.11 They read newsgroups


That they read newsgroups is on the face of it obvious.

They are thus privy to any discussions about

countermeasures. It is clear that they adjust what they do

to reduce the effect of countermeasures, and further their

general aims.




Subject: 4.12 Generate splits among subscribers.


Any tensions within a newsgroup are deliberately increased.




Subject: 4.13 Bullying


The Trolls often demand the right to post anything and

everything to a newsgroup. If anyone or any group opposes

them they threaten to continue, for longer.




Subject: 4.14 Threaten to infect computers with viruses.


They regularly threaten to infect opponents computers with

Viruses and/or Trojans. It is difficult to prove where a

Virus or Trojan originated, so I cannot prove that they have

ever carried out this threat.


Running one of the commercial anti virus programs to

permanently monitor incoming newsgroups, email, etc is

always a Good Thing and to be recommended


Subject: 5. What can be done about them?


The actions taken by a person, or a group, against Trolls

depends on many factors, technical expertise, personality,

equipment available to name but a few.


Below are listed some possible actions with advantages

(Pro) and disadvantages (Con) given for each.




Subject: 5.1 Ignore them and they will go away.


This is the traditional usenet method of dealing with

Trolls, and is regularly suggested.

It is similar to the method use to train dogs, and very

young children, ignore bad behaviour and reward good

behaviour. Thus it is only likely to work if the, The Infant

or Attention Seeker theory, is true




If you are subscribed to a Sub Target newsgroup this is

quite a reasonable method. The normal change of Sub

Targets will ensure that they do "go away", convincing you

that this is an effective way of dealing with the problem.

It however leaves the Target newsgroup in exactly the same

mess as it was before.

If you are confronted with a minor attack by merely

Irritating Trolls, or inexperienced and disorganized Trolls,

this may also work.




If you are subscribed to a Target newsgroup, this is

impossible, as up to 90% of posts may be trolls. As the

Intension is to destroy the Target Newsgroup, they will

*never* go away.


On any newsgroup there are a mixture of subscribers, non of

whom has any ability to control the postings of other

subscribers. Human nature dictates that someone will

*always* reply to a good troll. Arguably this section

should be headed "If *everyone* ignores them and they will

go away." which is arguably impossible to attain.


In the case of uly after a full week of almost total

ignoring of a specific troll made him so angry that he

invited in other trolls. After that a massive and damaging

attack began.

uk.local.yorkshire contained this telling sentence.

> Most people like the countryside, but not everyone is

> willing to tread shin deep through pig :censored: to get

> to a meadow.




Subject: 5.2 Use a Killfile


There is a killfile FAQ at

http://www.hyphenologist.co.uk/killfile giving information

about how to use killfile facilities many newsreaders.

Almost all newsreaders will kill individual threads and/or

posters. Some have more complex, and wide ranging facilities.




One only sees posts from each thread, or by each Troll,

Sockpuppet or morphed identity a few times to determine the

true nature of the poster.




You might miss something important, such as a libel against

oneself. However an important post will usually start a

thread and you may well see someone else's follow ups.


It takes quite a bit of effort, and knowledge for someone

subscribed to a Target newsgroup to maintain a killfile.

For someone subscribed to a Sub Target maintaining the

killfile is easy, and recommended.


Very few posters know of the existence of killfile

facilities, and some cannot handle them when pointed out.

The old hands on usenet can not understand why newbies

cannot do what the old hands find so simple.


Even very technically savvy, usenet hands are often

unwilling to subscribe to the Target newsgroup. The hard

grind of keeping the killfile working may be considered

more bother than the subscription is worth.




Subject: 5.3 A moderated newsgroup


A Moderated newsgroup is almost impossible to troll.

misc.kids a newsgroup for parents and carers for kids,

rather than the kids themselves, had trolling problems as

recorded in http://www.misckids.org/history.txt

>>> The misc.kids.moderated effort began sometime in the

summer of 1996, when a regular poster to misc.kids, Roger

Hunt, suggested to the newsgroup, as well as others who were

former regular posters, that we establish a moderated

alternative to misc.kids. This time, unlike previous

occasions when this type of suggestion was made, many people

seized upon the idea. Misc.kids had suffered several troll

invasions; many regular and trusted posters had left; and

the level of discourse had declined. Colleen Porter did a

straw poll on some issues related to creating a new

newsgroup and got 199 responses. Those responses have been

thoughtfully considered throughout this creation process and

form the basis for much of what appears in the RFD. <<<


Towards the end of 1997 misc.kids.moderated was created

see: http://www.misckids.org/


After the creation of misc.kids.moderated the level of

_destructive_ trolling of misc.kids fell drastically. At

the time of writing, misc.kids.moderated is a small but

thriving newsgroup, also misc.kids is a large newsgroup, but

riven by On Topic disputes. On a superficial examination it

could be concluded that the creation of mkm was a waste of

time and effort, because mk now has only minor problems. On

a deeper examination, it could be concluded that the

existence of mkm protects mk from the worst of the outright

trolling, presumably because in the case of drastic

problems, subscribers could move to mkm.




It works and is a traditional usenet method of solving the

problems of troublesome newsgroups.




It requires a permanently on line machine. It requires a

moderbot to handle much of the work. It requires a team of

moderators ideally about six to handle posts which the

moderbot does not approve. It requires a very well written

charter, with specific moderation guidelines, otherwise

the moderators will end up accepting or rejecting posts on

personal preference. The Trolls will try to become

moderators, and cause mayhem. Changing from a non moderated

to a moderated newsgroup is *extremely* difficult. A new

newsgroup with the same name but .moderated would normally

have to be created. This would need an RFD and vote in the

uk.* hierarchy, if that is where the newsgroup is to be





Subject: 5.4 A purely robomoderated newsgroup


A purely automatic moderation system which will reject all

crossposting. Also limit the number of posts which can be

made by a single poster in a day, and similar problems.


This is being discussed at the time of writing on

uk.net.news.config subject: RFD: uk.net.news.beginners




It might work, or at least improve matters.




It requires a permanently on line machine.

It requires a very well written charter, with specific

moderation guidelines,

Changing from a non moderated to a moderated newsgroup is

*extremely* difficult.

A new newsgroup with the same name but .moderated would

have to be created.

This would need an RFD and vote in the uk.* hierarchy.

Nobody knows how well it would withstand an onslaught by

determined and well organised Trolls.




Subject: 5.5 A Yahoo Group Listserver


If things get too rough the existing group of posters could

move to an invitation only Yahoo Group, or a UK Yahoo

group. This has been done successfully with

uk.local.yorkshire where most of the posters have moved to

Tykesground, which provides respite from the continuing

Trolling problems, but uly has not died, because many post

to both forums,




The Trolls can be effectively kept out.

The group of reasonable posters is kept together.




Yahoo posts do not thread as usenet posts, on some

newsreaders. The list owner is Ghod. He/she must be

trusted, and treat the group with a light hand. People get

bored, lose Internet access, die and so on, and thus

unsubscribe. In the longer term, new recruits must be

found or the group will wither and die.

The Trolls have effectively won, and the newsgroup will

probably wither and die.


The Trolls hate it and treat the Yahoo group as an affront

to the their ability to control the Target Newsgroup. They

will fight harder, and *never* go away.

All usenet groups need new blood to replace people who get

bored, move on, die, loose access to the net etc. etc.

Getting new subscribers to a closed group is difficult.




Subject: 5.6 Cancel posts


Traditionally posts which exceed a Breidbart Index of 20 or

any of the other usenet rules may be cancelled.


For unix users, there is a system NoCeM which lists posts

with a BI above 20, and prevents you from downloading them.




It gets rid of offending posts.

The Trolls hate it.


For forgeries of oneself there is good justification for





Cancelling other peoples posts is not for the uninitiated.

Cancellation does not work on all newsservers. It must be

done quickly, or it is not worth doing. The posts get to

the users machine where cancellation has no effect, harm is

done before the canceller sees the post.


Most troll posts are not strictly against the usenet rules

and guidelines. In these cases, it is difficult to justify





Subject: 5.7 LART (report to ISP)


Where a Troll breaks the rules of usenet or their ISP an

email or "LART" to abuse@ISP,name will often persuade the

ISP, newsserver operator, or their upstream providers to

cancel a users account.



It often works. It is traditional usenet practice.



Free ISPs are ten a penny, and the Troll can easily get

another account and continue as before.


Some Trolls can have several paid for internet accounts.


Some of the worst trolls take care not to break their ISPs

Terms and Conditions, or usenet rules. ISPs are reluctant

to act without evidence of an offence.




Subject: 5.8 Trim the newsgroup line


With the crossposting Trolls one can follow up the posts

asking only those in the Sub Target newsgroups to trim the

newsgroup line, when following up. Remember not to ask the

Troll Communications newsgroups to trim the newsgroup line.




It reduces the inadvertent crossposts by up to 90%




The Trolls notice that it has been done, and replace the



Newbies, do not have a clue, and ask what on earth you are

talking about.




Subject: 5.9 Give them a good (virtual) st*ff*ng.


This is the preferred method on uk.rec.motorcycles, a robust





It is very satisfying.




Some would say that it makes things worse because it gives

them the attention which they crave.


At best it becomes a war of attrition. In the Target

newsgroups there is nothing to loose, so one might as well

try to wear them down.




Subject: 5.10 Follow up the offending posts.


It is always possible to follow up troll posts.




For forgeries of posts in your name, and libelous posts, A

follow up is an effective rejoinder, because of the

ineffectiveness of Cancel posts.


For The Crosspost Troll, warning the Sub Target

newsgroup(s) of the list of crosspostings, is effective in

reducing the damage.


For The Request for Assistance Troll, only the Target

Newsgroup and the Troll communications newsgroup(s) will

see the followup so they are not effective.


For combined Crosspost Troll combined with a Request for

Asistance Troll, only the Sub Target newsgroups should be





In general just following up is not a good idea.




Subject: 5.11 Digitally Sign Posts with PGP.


If forgery is a problem, one can sign posts with Pretty

Good Privacy. This is free for non commercial use and may

be found at http://web.mit.edu/network/pgp.html. There are

USA and Non USA versions available. Non USA users should

ensure that they get the non USA version.


This does not stop the forgeries, but does allow the reader

to check if a post comes from the person it appears to come


Continuous surveillance of incoming email etc. for viruses

and trojans is essential for those using a PGP sig. If

your machine becomes infected with a backdoor trojan the

digital sig may be compromised.




Subject: 5.12 Continue posting On Topic posts to the



Those who find themselves subscribed to a Target Newsgroup,

can agree amongst themselves that they will not be driven

away by the Trolls. If they just keep on posting On Topic

posts, the Trolls can never totally win. Better, new

subscribers will find something interesting to read amongst

the dross, and filth.


If someone includes the URL for the killfile FAQ

http://www.hyphenologist.co.uk/killfile in a sig, and

perhaps posts the whole thing weekly, new subscribers will

learn very quickly how to use killfiles, and so not see the




Subject: 5.13 Unsubscribe


When a ng is troubled by trolls it is always possible to

just unsubscribe.




From a purely selfish point of view this is by far the

easiest thing to do. You can happily transfer your

subscriptions to less troubled ngs. Problem solved!





From the point of view of usenet as a whole, it is

absolutely the worst possible course of action. Whether the

trolls are the infantile kind with a strange sense of fun,

or the evil kind intent on destruction, the result will be

the same. No On Topic posts, lots of ridiculous troll posts,

dead newsgroup.


This is what happened to uk.local.birmingham, when a group

of reasonable posters including Iain Bowen just

unsubscribed. It has never recovered.




Subject: 5.14 Tempt them back into the mainstream of usenet


Trolls sometimes post reasonable things, these can be

followed up




It may improve matters.




Those who believe in a strict "ignore them" policy

will not use this.


Subject: 5.15 Reclaim Troll threads


There is sometimes a small point of general interest in

troll posts. Careful snipping and follow ups can create

interesting threads.




It irritates the Trolls.




Reasonable posters may already have killed the threads




Subject: 5.16 Retromoderation


Two forms of retromoderation already exists on usenet, namely:


Spam canceling. This function is not automatic at the

time of writing. Spam is *detected* automatically but the

canceling is done manually by volunteers.


Also binaries, except tiny ones, posted to text newsgroups

are automatically cancelled.


It would be possible to write scripts which would

automatically detect and cancel posts to any specific

newsgroup or newsgroups which contravene some parts of the

newsgroup charter.


Examples would be excessive crossposting, and perhaps

hipcrime attacks.




It may be effective against crossposting





Most Troll activities could not be reliably detected

automatically. A human retromoderator would have great

difficulty determining exactly if a specific post was

to be cancelled.


Retromoderation is intensely disliked by usenet generally.


The Troll communications newsgroup(s) used changes rapidly

It would be impossible to list, Troll communications

newsgroup(s), in a charter because the trolls would just use

a different newsgroup.




Subject: 6. Why do they do it?


No one knows why the Trolls act as they do, but there are

several theories. Clearly an individual Troll may be in

one, or several of these groups, or indeed in none at all.

It is difficult to believe, but possible, that a totally

normal person would become a Troll.




Subject: 6.1 The Infant or Attention Seeker theory


Some believe that the trolls are just adults who brains and

morals have not developed beyond childhood, and they are

just behaving as attention seeking children.




Subject: 6.2 The retired bitter old person theory.


There is evidence that some Trolls are retired persons,

with a good pension and little to do with their lives.

They may have suffered a personal loss such as the death of

a much loved spouse which warped their outlook on life.


This type is particularly dangerous, because they may have

ample funds to buy computer equipment, own multiple domain

names, and multiple access to the internet. Worse they

may have, say 8 hour per day to invest in their "hobby".




Subject: 6.3 The insane person theory.


Some Trolls may be clinically insane, indeed one posts as

Mogadon John which may indicate that he/she is taking this

*major* tranquiliser, or it may just be a joke.




Subject: 6.4 The just evil theory.


There are people in this world who enjoy destruction. Some

enjoy murdering children. Some enjoy sexually abusing

children. Some Trolls may be in a similar category.




Subject: 6.5 The sad git theory.


There are unfortunately people with such restricted lives

that they cannot think of anything useful or constructive

to do with the powerful and expensive kit which they are





Subject: 6.6 The loser theory.


This theory is that the Trolls are just losers who cannot

succeed in anything in their real lives. They can however

disrupt usenet with relative impunity.




Subject: 7. Definitions


Some of the terms used may not be familiar to all readers,

and indeed I have been forced to invent some definitions.




Subject: 7.1 Target Newsgroup(s)


The newsgroup(s) which they are attempting to destroy, at

the time of writing, May 2002, two are uk.local.yorkshire

and comp.os.linux.advocacy (thanks to mjcr)




Subject: 7.2 Sub Target newsgroup(s)


The newsgroups(s) which they are using to flood the target

newsgroup with Off Topic posts. These are continuously

changed, examples are the cooking newsgroups, the guns

newsgroups, and the political newsgroups. All of which may

be relied upon to follow up inflammatory posts which are on

topic to them, but off topic to the Target newsgroup.




Subject: 7.3 Old Target newsgroup(s)


The newsgroup(s) which have been made into a wasteground by

the Trolls, and are being maintained so by using crossposts

from the target newsgroups. At the time of writing, end

2001, one is uk.local.birmingham.




Subject: 7.4 Troll communications newsgroup(s).


These are ngs used by the trolls for non important

communications, such as the Request for Assistance. Typical

ones are alt.troll, alt.alien.vampire.flonk.flonk.flonk,

alt.fan.karl- malden.nose, alt.hackers.malicious. If a

troll is subscribed to one of these he/she may assist in

trolling many Target newsgroups, using the request for

assistance troll. The ngs used for this purpose change




Subject: 7.5 Sockpuppet


A Sockpuppet is when a poster has several usenet identities,

either just different names and email addresses from a single

account. Alternatively several email identities with valid email

addresses and email accounts.




Subject: 7.6 Morphed Identity


A morphed identity is when a poster has one usenet identity,

which changes in detail, to outwit killfiles. For instance the

name may remain the same and the email address change, or the

name and/or email address may contain accented characters which

are changed for different versions of the same letter.




Subject: 7.7 Morphed Subject:


A morphed Subject: is when a poster changes the subject

line, in some visually insignificant way in the middle of a

thread to outwit killfiles set to that thread.



Subject: 7.8 K00k or kook


A general insult used by Trolls.

One who displeases or opposes Trolls

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