I have recently joined a seniors only web site. Most people there are decent, rational people. Unfortunately, however there are 5 or 6 who are constantly in attack mode and they always make snide anti-social remarks such as, "The recent mass shooting in Las Vegas clearly demonstrates that Americans are only getting what they deserve".

One person, on that web site, is particularly nasty and will take any and every "thread" wildly off topic with some negative comment about the person who just posted. When I ask posters to stay on topic I sometimes get remarks such as "Why are you always trying to control people. Example : I started a thread on the film "War and Remembrance" The 1st reply I received was a rant on Isis, which is not remotely related to the WW2 film.

How do I handle such people ?

  • 6
    Hi Richard, and welcome. At this stage, you don't actually narrow down enough so that people here can answer. We need goals, something we can achieve and answer. What you ask is way too broad. 1. doesn't your website have mods/policy? 2. Isn't that particular one just a troll? (don't feed the troll!
    – OldPadawan
    Oct 4 '17 at 6:36
  • 1
    Does the forum have an ignore feature? I find that particularly useful in situations like this.
    – enderland
    Oct 4 '17 at 12:51
  • 1
    How do you want to handle them? We need to know what you want from this interaction before we can tell you how to achieve it. The fact that you're getting answers that range from "don't feed the trolls" to "disengage" to "leave the site"... they're all possible solutions but if you're not interested in quitting the site, that's a bad solution for you. If your site doesn't have moderation, or enough moderation, that's a bad solution for you. Tell us more about this site, your place in it, this person's place in it and what you want to get out of this behavioral correction.
    – Catija
    Oct 4 '17 at 15:12
  • Your edits don't answer any of my questions.
    – Catija
    Oct 5 '17 at 13:50

There's a few things to consider here

Leave the community

If the online community allows contentious topics/opinion to continue, then consider leaving this community and looking for something else. Different communities have different personalities and different ideas of what is acceptable and unacceptable. If you're uncomfortable with the general atmosphere of an online community, then you're at liberty to leave.

Don't feed the trolls

If there's a couple of individuals who are causing concern, then simply ignore them. If the community has an "ignore" feature, use it. Trolls thrive on people arguing with them and will actively seek to escalate an argument to alarming proportions. By not responding, you're denying them this route to escalation. Not responding doesn't mean that they "win" or that you agree with their opinion; it just means that you don't choose to respond.

Use the reporting feature and the Terms of Service

If users behaviour is in conflict with the communities stated Terms of Service/community guidelines, then use the formal reporting function (usually a button). This allows you to privately report the behaviour to the site moderators for them to deal with.

  • It's a sad truth that some times when all else fails to make things better you have to vote with your feet and leave. Oct 5 '17 at 17:30

One of the greatest things about social media is that it gives everyone with an opinion a voice. One of the worst things about social media is that it gives everyone with an opinion a voice.

You will unfortunately not escape nasty or abusive people on the internet. Instead of trying to handle them yourself, let the moderators do the dirty work. If it is a good website with decent forum functionality, there should be a "report" feature. Just report them, or ignore them altogether.

Save this feature for really abusive behavior though, or it will seem like you are crying wolf.

In addition, how would you treat idiots you come across when offline? That is the compass you should use in your online interactions as well.

  • 1
    -1 Sorry I disagree that giving people a voice is a bad thing. yeah, there are certain drawbacks and it also can be misused, but giving a voice to an opinion is not "one of the worst things", sorry.
    – dhein
    Oct 4 '17 at 7:36
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    @dhein I think you misread this statement and actually took that sentence out of context. Would you say giving Nazis a voice is a good thing? Would you say giving radical islamists a voice is a good thing? - WHat I am trying to say is: The (social) media itself is giving a voice to any one with an opinion - regardless of the value of that opinion. This is what the complete citation is all about.
    – Fildor
    Oct 4 '17 at 7:54
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    @Fildor I'd say it's a good thing. Better to hear their crazy out in the open, where people can actually address it, than muttered and festering in private.
    – Erik
    Oct 4 '17 at 8:41
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    ^^Maybe it is best explained by rephrasing that first paragraph of the answer to "It's great that anyone can express their opinions, but you also have to be able to handle the ones you disagree with."
    – Fildor
    Oct 4 '17 at 9:14
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    @Fildor I think that captures the essence well. As the quote goes, 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it'. Public forums like social media can be an enlightening platform to see what opinions are out there, but if one is not open to the opinions of others then they will find very little value in them outside of possibly finding validation through seeing others with opinions similar to their own.
    – Cronax
    Oct 4 '17 at 9:59

I once was moderator in a forum where we had a problem user who had a very specific issue and just couldn't shut up about it. That user kept derailing all kinds of threads to their pet issue. Unfortunately it was also one of those users you couldn't sanction efficiently. First, they weren't actually breaking any rules in a sanction-worthy manner. Second, they were the kind who would just have created new accounts in case of a ban, making them even harder to manage. Third, ugly political reasons I don't want to go into detail about prevented me from bringing down the mod-hammer too hard on that user.

What I did instead was create a new thread about their pet issue which I called "The official [issue] flamewar thread". I then proceeded to move any posts about [issue] (including direct replies) to that thread.

  • The troll couldn't complain about censorship, because their posts were still readable.
  • Those users who couldn't resist the temptation to feed the troll could indulge in that passion without derailing threads about more interesting topics.
  • Normal users who didn't care about the problem could just not read that flamewar thread.
  • The threads from which the posts were removed stayed on-topic

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