As an open-access encyclopedia, Wikipedia can be edited by anyone with internet access. Because of this, the site has attracted a large number of trolls over the years (and no, we’re not talking about the mystical Scandinavian creatures that live in the mountains). Loyal Wikipedia editors are constantly on the lookout for article vandalism.
Here is everything you need to know about trolling on Wikipedia.
What Exactly Does Trolling Mean?
If you have ever heard an old folktale about trolls, you’ll know that trolls are menacing creatures that are generally dangerous and mischievous towards humans. It would be in your best interest to avoid them at all costs, and the same is true for internet trolls.
In the modern day, internet trolls are people who antagonize other internet users by making provocative, controversial, or even downright offensive comments online. They do this in order to elicit an intense emotional response from the person they are trolling. Trolls add nothing to a conversation and are only there to derail it and upset people. At best, it’s a small mischievous prank, and at its worst, trolling can have real negative effects on the victim’s mental health.
Why Do People Troll?
If you are a normal person, you are probably wondering – why would someone go out of their way to upset others online? There are a lot of different reasons for this:
- Trolls often hide behind the anonymity of the internet, and will even make fake profiles. People tend to say things they wouldn’t normally say in real life because there are usually no repercussions for them online.
- For some reason, they take pleasure in seeing others suffer. This is known as “Schadenfreude“, and we all do this to a small extent. Internet trolls often take this to an extreme degree by seeking “negative social potency“.
- These people could exhibit traits such as narcissism, psychopathy, and sadism. They enjoy deceiving, manipulating, and overall being hostile toward other people. They may also have an inflated sense of self or ego.
- People who do this may be seeking attention, in whatever form they can get it. It doesn’t matter to them if it’s good or bad attention.
- They are generally an anti-social person. Most people think “antisocial” means the same as “introverted”, but this is not the case. People with anti-social behavior are hostile toward others, and it is often easier to do this online than in real life.
How Prevalent Is Trolling?
One of the most iconic and oldest internet memes is of the troll face, an image used to signal that someone is trolling. Internet trolls have been around as long as the internet itself has, and will probably be around forever. Large-scale global events, such as the pandemic, can even exacerbate trolling.
Sadly, about one-quarter of teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18 have experienced trolling or cyberbullying. 41% of American adults have also experienced harassment online. Trolls can be found on every corner of the internet. As the internet becomes more and more a part of our daily lives, cyberbullying can have real-world effects.
Examples Of Trolling & How To Spot One
Knowing when someone is trolling in the first place can be difficult. Here are some ways you can spot a troll:
- Their comments are making you angry and upset
- They exaggerate or make unbelievable claims
- The account they are using is new, or they are using a fake or extremely common name
- There is no identifiable information on their profile
- They leave hurtful comments on other people’s pages
- They talk down to you or call you names
- They do not stay on topic, or their argument doesn’t make sense
- They are relentless, often arguing the same topic over and over – they may also post a lot on social media
- There are a lot of grammatical errors in their comments and posts
What Can You Do About Trolls?
If these insufferable trolls are ruining your life, there are things you can do to deal with them.
- Do not give in to them. Their only goal is to get a reaction from you, so do not give it to them. Block and delete if necessary.
- Unless you are an influencer or a business account, make your social media accounts private. That way, only people you know in real life can see your content.
- Most platforms allow you to report people for online harassment. If someone is trolling you, you can always report them.
- If you absolutely can’t ignore it, reply in a calm and professional way. Take a deep breath and try not to get heated.
- Try responding with kindness or humor – this will usually disarm them and they will look for other people to troll.
- If you run some kind of forum, a group page, or are hosting a live stream, make sure you have moderators to kick out the trolls.
- If you are a Wikipedia editor and you come across trolling or vandalism, you can go into the article and revert the troll’s edits.
Trolling On Wikipedia
Wikipedia trolls, also known as vandals, will edit Wikipedia articles with inflammatory or false information in bad faith – whether it’s for humorous or malicious purposes. Articles of celebrities are common targets for vandalism because they garner a lot of attention – but animals, places, and events in history are targeted as well.
Wikipedia often will protect pages in order to prevent vandalism. Semi-protection will prevent unregistered Wikipedia users from editing a page. However, this status can’t be applied to all articles. Wikipedia maintains a list of commonly vandalized pages.
Is It Illegal To Mess With A Wikipedia Page?
The nature of Wikipedia is that it is designed to be edited by anyone. So no, it is not illegal in a literal sense to vandalize a Wikipedia page. The police will not come knocking on your door over an internet prank. However, it does violate the site’s policies and you could see yourself getting banned.
How To Report Vandalism On Wikipedia
If you are a casual Wikipedia reader, there isn’t a report button if you see that a page has been trolled or vandalized. It is up to editors to go back and fix Wikipedia vandalism by reverting the edits. However, since anyone is allowed to edit Wikipedia, you would be able to fix the issue yourself if you are up for it.
1. Log in or create an account with Wikipedia
2. Click “View History” on the Wikipedia page in question
3. Find the vandalizing edit and click Undo
4. Alternatively, you can also go to Edit Source and manually take the vandalism out of the article
What Happens If You Troll On Wikipedia
If you troll or vandalize a Wikipedia entry, you could eventually be blocked from editing the site altogether. Even if you don’t have an account, Wikipedia still tracks your IP address, which they will block for persistent vandals.
Users who vandalize Wikipedia pages will be given several warnings before a block is put in place. If you have committed vandalism, you will see a warning template on your user talk page. However, after repeated vandalism, you will be given a final warning before being blocked.
If you want access to editing again, you will need to show that you have learned from your actions and won’t repeat the mistake in the future. It will be hard to convince an administrator of this if you were deliberately trolling Wikipedia.
Wikipedia takes trolling and vandalism seriously, and editors are constantly on the lookout for it. Editors can report active and obvious vandalism to the Wikipedia administrator intervention against vandalism noticeboard.
In Closing: Wikipedia Trolling
The nature of accessibility on Wikipedia often attracts people to troll or vandalize articles. Whether it’s for humor or has bad intentions behind it, it is a fairly common issue on the site. Thankfully, editors are there to make sure that Wikipedia stays vandalism free. If you have more questions about all things related to Wikipedia, browse through our range of articles to find answers.