Why are people so nasty online? It’s a mystery as old as the internet itself. Since the dawn of the internet, some people have decided their favorite thing to do online is bother other people. There’s a name for this: trolling. We’re at a point in history where trolling can be much more than a nuisance; it can be disruptive to your life when someone reveals details about where you live, takes over your accounts, or threatens you. Here’s some tips on preventing and preparing for trolling. For threats that escalate to the physical, see this article as well.
The Crash Override Network has an excellent walk-through of different steps you need to take to make your accounts troll-proof, many of which (like using a password manager) defend your accounts in other ways, too. Their COACH tool will walk you through:
strengthening protections on your accounts,
hiding your address and phone number,
making your websites harder to attack,
and defending your devices.
There are a tremendous number of sites out there which provide information about you that you might want to keep private, like your age, phone number, address, or legal record. Here’s an explanation of those sites from PrivacyDuck, which has videos walking you through how to get your information off many of those sites.
Do you have anything old out there on an old blog, social media, or gaming site that you may have forgotten, but that would be incredibly embarrassing if someone dug it up? Crash Override recommends using JustDelete.Me.
Unroll.me offers the ability to quickly unsubscribe if someone has decided to annoy you by signing you up for a whole bunch of email subscriptions. Heck, you don’t even have to wait for someone to harass you—you can use this tool if you’ve signed yourself up for too many mailing lists! It is immensely satisfying to click once and know that you’re stopping the ongoing deluge of clutter. Unroll.me will ask for permissions to access your account, and you will need to grant them for it to work.
Trollbusters has you covered. They have a flowchart (in English, Spanish, Russian, Turkish, and Hindi!) to help assess whether a threat is legally actionable, as well as reputation management, coaching, and social media monitoring services.
Sometimes our family members, workplaces, or law enforcement may dismiss troll threats as “boys being boys” or “just online stuff” and “not real.” If threats have gotten more serious and you are concerned for your safety, but you’re not being taken seriously, Crash Override’s guide to talking with family and police about online threats or their guide for your employer could be helpful in making your case.