It’s come to my attention that an increasing number of YouTube creators and other Internet figures are being actively harassed online. Here is a list of things required for a successful troll hunt for anyone who wishes to build a criminal case against their cyberstalkers. It’s based on my own experience tracking down an individual who was stalking a number of people, including a young family who had recently lost a child.
- Stay calm. The troll’s primary objective is to upset you. Trolls feed off attention and negative emotion, so it’s important to control your own reactions and deny them both. Staying calm serves two positive purposes, as it prevents you from establishing an emotional relationship with them as well as forcing them to increase their efforts in order to achieve the desired effect, thereby increasing the likelihood they will make a mistake or cross a line.
- Be patient. A security expert has told me that no one can regularly comment without giving away their true identity within one year. Remember, the troll is in it for the attention, so hiding even the smallest significant aspects of his identity places him fundamentally at conflict with his own instincts and desires.
- Directly inform the troll that he is banned from visiting your site and from commenting under all current and future identities, and that if he persists in his activity, he is engaged in illegal trespassing and cyberstalking. It is vital to put them on notice. For some reason, many people who are capable of understanding that physical trespassing is not only illegal, but can permit them to be legally shot in some places tend to find it hard to grasp that online trespassing is illegal. The fact that you CAN access a site does not automatically give you permission to do so any more than the fact that you CAN physically access someone’s lawn gives you permission to walk on it.
- Don’t delete the troll’s comments. It took me a long time to learn this; even though I saved them in a separate text file, I sometimes got lazy or couldn’t be bothered. It’s best to have them there, in the blog, where they can be easily produced as evidence or mined for investigative purposes.
- Don’t permit the readers to engage with the troll. They may mean well, but their reactions to the troll are usually a bigger problem than the troll’s comments are. Set a policy of “Comments responding to a troll will be deleted” and delete them on sight. Commenters cannot shut down a troll because he seeks their negative attention; them saying “shut up” and “go away” is something he desires, so their effort on your behalf are counterproductive. Don’t let them feed him.
- Look for the troll’s other identities. Trolls always have sockpuppets, and often they are less careful when using them. Yama had over 30. Even a cursory glance at the mined comments shows that NTA has at least three. And often, the sockpuppet identity is the troll’s primary identity on other sites. Yama did not use Yama here at all, he primarily used Will leFey, Dan Picaro, Luscinia, and Alauda. But once I was able to link him to the Yamamanama and Yama the Spacefish identities, I was able to learn considerably more information about him and those around him.
Read the rest of it on the original post. We could certainly add more to it now, in light of subsequent experiences as well as changes in the legal systems of a number of jurisdictions and the lessons learned from various forays into arbitration and court. But it will do for a start.