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On Trolls and other Internet Assholes

So I try to keep this blog mostly positive, but some recent Amazon shenanigans reminded of past events that were definitely on the negative side. I had promised some of my Twitter friends to blog about the situation after it happened, but hadn’t had a blog really up and running yet to do so. Thus, I decided to post about it today.

Basically, back towards the end of February last year I apparently pissed off someone on Twitter. How I pissed them off I honestly have no real way of knowing. What I do know is that they decided to respond by creating a fake Twitter account with my profile image and handle. The only change they made was adding “Bitch” to any reference to me. They also, in their infinite free time, created a “CL McCollum is the Real Bitch!!!” Facebook page to go along with their Twitter obnoxiousness.

During the same weekend, I also had another completely separate account decide to go through multiple tweets on my page and respond with numerous obscenities and caps lock shouts for me to “go away” “shut the fuck up” and “just leave – no one likes you anyway you whote!” (And yes they actually typed ‘whote’ instead of ‘whore.’ It was the one semi-amusing part of the whole mess.)

Given the timing, I’m pretty sure both accounts were created or at least instigated by the same asshole, but there was no way to prove it and no way to find out who had created the pages. I was basically left with no other options than to report, block, and move on.

That said, it was definitely a learning process, so I thought I’d share some of the things I figured out along the way.

First and foremost, people are more awesome than you think they are. I know – it’s a weird thing to put on a blog about internet assholes, but seriously that was the big thing I came away with. Not one, two, or even three, but four separate people made sure to give me a heads up via DM letting me know what had happened. I honestly still would not know the fake account was created without that warning. I had been gone for most of the weekend as all of this went down and so hadn’t been on Twitter to realize what was going on. Same with the harassing comments – they’d moved down in my notifications, and without knowing to check for them, I wouldn’t have found them and been able to report the abusive account. Now keep in mind – the people who warned me were not some of the people I interact a ton with. It wasn’t my best friends looking out for me – it was essentially strangers except for Twitter conversations. And they STILL took the time to check in and make sure I was OK and knew to defend myself. Call me crazy, but that kinda restored my faith in humanity a bit. There’s a reason I love Twitter as a community and these guys were very much the reason why.

Next: reporting/blocking really wasn’t that hard. Facebook was actually an easier process than Twitter was, but either way, the accounts on both sites were dealt with and taken down pretty quickly. It was however a hassle and a half. Twitter needed the most information, including links to outside pages to prove I was “me” when dealing with the imposter account. They also initially asked for a scan of my driver’s license, but that was a little farther than I felt I wanted to go to prove my own identity. It worked out in the long run, but if the imposter had been around longer or gone to more effort to fake my identity, I probably would have had to go that route. Also for Twitter, I had to copy the links to each of the harassing comments as proof the account was abusive. I gotta say, that also was a detail I didn’t enjoy. Having to read all of them again to copy the links definitely wasn’t that fun. I got it done though, so no real harm done.

Finally, and I’d heard this before, but it was good to have it proven. DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. The abusive comments definitely escalated the longer they went unanswered, but after a certain point, the troll gave up and stopped posting. I hadn’t responded (granted it was because I was out of town, but they didn’t know that), and that meant the troll didn’t get the attention and reaction they craved. Did I still block them? Hell yes. But I didn’t comment or respond to them directly. And I think that’s why the incident died down without too much additional hardship.

Overall, the situation sucked, but it could have been a lot worse. It was more surreal than awful, honestly. I’d heard about/read about people getting targeted by trolly assholes, but I’d never personally experienced it, or even directly knew someone it had happened to. It was eye opening to have it happen, and I hopefully will know how to handle it quickly and efficiently in the future.

It’s also, as sad as it is to say, a really good experience to have BEFORE I get a novel published. In the time since the Twitter harassment hit and this blog post going live, I’ve had a few other trolls come out to play – only this time, they decided to randomly post on my Amazon author page and in reviews on a few of the anthologies I’ve contributed to. Unlike the first round of trolling, those rolled off my back a hell of a lot easier. It’s a reminder that the more I end up in the public eye, the more likely it is that this sort of thing will happen. Do I like that fact? No, not so much. But at least I’m more prepared for it than I might have been otherwise.

Have any of you had to deal with trolls? How did you handle it? Any additional advice for me for the next round of assholery? Hit me up on Twitter with any tips you have @C_L_McCollum

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