As Sally Kohn writes, “anyone who has written anything vaguely controversial online has been introduced to this unique species of nastiness.  The traditional dictionary definition of a troll is “a mythical, cave-dwelling being depicted in folklore as either a giant or a dwarf, typically having a very ugly appearance.”  But the 21st century web definition is “someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous or off-topic messages in an online community… with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

Whereas some advocate ignoring and not “feeding” the trolls, others have begun suggesting a different approach.  Kohn summarizes, “the Internet isn’t a murky under-bridge of incivility that threatens democracy and which the rest of us polite folks ignore, but a constantly-contested space.  And in that space, civility isn’t a victim but a tool, one to be wielded with wit and abandon to slay the trolls that would undermine a decent culture and society.”

An innovative approach to addressing internet trolls has been proposed by World Table, involving transparent ratings of the quality of participation in an online conversation (as you can see below, we’ve chosen to use this system on this website here).