Skip The Toll: How To Deal With Tech Savvy Trolls

It’s the year 2022 and people now turn to devices for human connection. The internet has never been more social and with that constantly growing traffic comes a bounty of wonderful moments of connection… And an all time high population of trolls.Internet trolling is defined as ‘malicious online behavior’ characterized by aggressive or deliberate provocation of others. While this behavior may (debatably) be cathartic for the person trolling communities in anonymity, their presence significantly deteriorates the health and safety of a digital space, and thus its usability.

Publishers big and small suffer equally at the hands of trolls. They’re tech savvy, almost always anonymous, and with an abundance of time on their hands to spread toxicity, they’re a force to be reckoned with. What’s worse? They’re here to stay.

In lieu of surrendering, here are a few troll tactics to look out for and what you can do to skip the toll and protect your peace.

Multiple Accounts

Trolls are obsessive, petulant and persistent. If you’re suddenly up against a horde of trolls, keep in mind it may just be one person, on a mission, using many accounts. Trolls have the time and the tech to overwhelm spaces, dodge bans, and sully the hard earned good vibes of your community. How do I solve it? – Once you’re familiar with a troll’s behaviour, you can spot them in the wild (disguised as a new user) as they start fights or encourage incendiary opinions. These repeat offenders leave hints that point to their identity. Armed with your community tools and data, look out for similar names, emails, avatars, or IP addresses linked to existing bans. Check, confirm and then ban them as many times as it takes.

Hate Speech and Vulgarity

Trolls need attention and offensive language is an easy way to get it. In 2019, approximately a third of the posts that Viafoura moderators came across contained hate speech and/or vulgarity. That’s almost 83 million attempts at being nasty for no reason, so we can at least give trolls credit for being dedicated to their craft… But not good credit, to be sure. How do I solve it? – A ‘banned-word list’ can help limit this particular tactic but some trolls may use a tactic called ‘masking’. Trolls will mask banned words with symbols, vertical spelling, periods, etc. to throw off a simple banned-word list. If you’re not sure what to look for, trust – 0nce u se.e 1t, y0u c4n’t uns33 1t. A more sophisticated, natural language processing AI, like Viafoura’s, can spot masked words and block them with over 90% accuracy.

Bonus tip: Many service providers claim to have AI or automatic moderation, but don’t actually leverage natural language processing or machine learning to understand variations of words and sentence structures. Check in with your moderation provider to make sure your tool can learn as moderators approve or block comments, further training the algorithm, which should be customized to your guidelines.

Serial Flagging

User to user moderation can be a valuable safety tool but it also has the potential for abuse. Some trolls will use the ‘flagging’ feature to silence or frustrate innocent users. In some cases, the serial flagging may even result in an unfair ban for people that have not violated any guidelines. If a user flags often and most of the content they flag does not violate community guidelines, you may have a troll on your hands.How do I solve it? – Use your data and work with your community. Consider this incentive to be involved with your community and get to know who your positive contributors are. Asking trusted users for their insights and experiences with the suspected troll will help you recognize false-flag reporters on the spot.

Dealing with trolls isn’t always easy and it’s never a fun experience. Unfortunately, they are here to stay and if left unchecked they can turn your digital space into a tumultuous community rife with conflict – definitely not something you want associated with your brand. By equipping ourselves with the proper knowledge, tools and awareness, we can keep trolls at bay and use those same moderating methods to prevent toxic user behaviour from developing even without trolls fuelling the flames.

To learn more about Viafoura’s suite of moderation tools visit

Does your moderation team have the tools to spot the troll?

As any moderator knows, trolling is more than just a nuisance.

According to Leigh Adams, director of moderation services at Viafoura, ‘trolls become the vocal minority, and can quickly overtake and drown out more relevant conversation.’ When toxic behavior goes unchecked, it can lead forums in a direction that actively harms your brand. Are your moderators equipped to effectively identify and eliminate bad behavior before it causes long-term damage? Here are five important tools they’ll need.

Community Guidelines

The first step to building a safe online community is to create strong community guidelines that are clear, easy to find, and comprehensive. These serve as the first line of defense for would-be trolls.

What should guidelines contain? Experts recommend a no-tolerance policy for personal attacks, obscene, libelous, or defamatory content, and anything abusive or profane. After that, guidelines should be customized to fit your platform.

When a user behaves badly, community guidelines can help your moderators make an informed decision to flag or ban them. They also provide justification, should a banned user file a complaint. This helps to protect your moderators, which in turn helps them do their jobs with confidence.

Know the Signs

Tolls can be sorted into one of two categories; Single account and multiple account. Both types can be identified quickly and easily if moderators know what to look for. Ensure your moderation team knows how to access user data and search for warning signs.

Single account trolls are users who cross the line, whether they know it or not. They can be identified by volume and typically boast a high number of flags, disables, or comments. They can be redeemed, and often amend behavior with a warning or a single ban.Multi-account trolls will return repeatedly under different aliases. They’re typically seeking attention and often leave hints about their identity in order to reignite toxic conversations. Moderators should look at new accounts for telltale signs of a returning troll. They will often have a high disable rate, similar name, avatar image, or IP address to a previously banned account. Some trolls are so eager for attention, they may even post ‘I’m back’ or ‘I was banned’.



When all warnings have failed to stop bad behavior, moderators should be empowered to ban problematic users. Bans help uphold your community guidelines and make a better space for the well-behaved users that wish to enjoy the platform.

There are several kinds of bans; incremental, ghost bans, and permanent bans. Moderators can increase their level of control by understanding the best use scenario for each type of ban.

An incremental ban is used as a stop-gap or a warning to make sure first-time offenders are given room for improvement. Ghost bans allow the troll to continue posting, but they remove the comment from the general feed. Permanent bans are just that: permanent. Bans are a powerful tool. Empower your moderators to use them. Provided they are using it accurately, the confidence to ban users will save time and mental fortitude.

AI Tools

One of the best tools you can give your human moderation team is an AI system that will identify the majority of obvious toxicity, reduce their moderation scope and allow them to focus on more nuanced situations.

There are a number of intelligent moderation options available, but not all systems are made equal. Many services use a ‘banned word’ list that won’t catch the majority of contextual issues or ‘masking’ violations. Instead, choose a service with natural language processing or machine learning. These systems allow the AI to adapt as moderators approve or block comments, customizing the algorithm to your platform.

According to the Viafoura report ‘Everyone Is A Troll’, communities with advanced moderation software have been proven to see growth; 62% more user likes, 35% more comments per user, and 34% more replies per user.

Support for your moderation team

Your moderation team does the essential but difficult job of guarding your community against incoming hostility. Creating an efficient, positive, and healthy work environment will help them avoid burnout and maintain positivity.

The first and most important aspect of a healthy workplace is open communication. Set up a channel (like Slack or Google Meets) and encourage your moderators to reach out for help. This will help your team remain neutral, identify each other’s unconscious bias and ensure knowledge can be shared.

Support your moderation team further by keeping the workload transparent and providing access to frequent breaks. Rest can be productive, and when you’re dealing with constant negativity, essential.

At Viafoura, we believe that well-prepared moderators make for strong healthy communities. How many of these tools do your moderators employ? Equip your team with a complete range of moderation strategies and they can build a community that feels safe, supports your brand, and grows along with your platform.

How To Optimize Your Digital Community for Success

Is your media organization struggling to identify the next steps it should take to create innovative and profitable digital experiences? 

To help you find some clarity, Viafoura President and COO Mark Zohar joined Christoph Trappe, an industry thought leader, on an episode of the Business Storytelling Podcast

Throughout the podcast, Zohar sheds light on how the future of growth and success in the media industry will ultimately come down to building better digital communities

“COVID and all the things that have impacted us negatively has opened up this positive idea that we need to connect more and we need to connect better [with] digital communities,” Zohar tells Trappe. 

If establishing a thriving digital community is uncharted territory for your business, dig into highlights from the podcast below for some critical guidance and industry best practices.

What Is a Digital Community?

When you think of a community in the physical world, you probably think of a group of people who are connected based on their interests. The same is true for a digital community — it’s a group of real people who regularly engage with one another online through a host company around a common interest.

Zohar says that many digital community builders focus on creating a one-to-many community, where the host brand connects with users to encourage product feedback or promotion. 

“That one-to-many digital community… is very transactional and doesn’t really work well,” states Zohar. “[The] best communities are the many-to-many communities, where we have this very interactive, very spontaneous, very organic affiliation engagement between community members [and] the community host.”

As brands engage and nurture their digital communities, they’re able to satisfy their audience’s need for engagement, gather actionable audience information and unleash revenue-generating power from the people within their communities.

Unlocking the Full Power of Your Community

At the moment, social media gives brands a place to engage with followers. However, brands have no control over their communities on these third-party platforms — and this lack of control prevents brands from owning the relationships with their communities and audience data. 

“Most brands who own a digital strategy want to now have a direct relationship with their community,” Zohar highlights. “They want to have that community also present on their own sites, in their own native apps [and] across their organization.”

With full control over your community, you can provide your audience with interactive and customized experiences directly on your owned and operated channels. You’ll also gain precious first-party user data, which will allow you to tailor your content and advertising strategies according to your audience’s interests and behaviors. 

As mentioned in the podcast, the end goal for building a digital community is to transform anonymous audiences into known, loyal community members. 

“Allow your community members to interact with one another, to connect with one another, to follow one another on your owned and operated channels,” says Zohar. “If you do, what that will result in is retention, re-engagement and a place that people will want to come back to.”

Encouraging On-Site Engagement

Before you can build a digital community, you’ll need to figure out how you can capture the interest of your audience members continuously.

“You can’t create a community unless there’s value for the community,” Zohar explains.  

In other words, you have to offer up exciting on-site experiences to convince people to participate in your online community. Only then will they give up their data to register or pay a subscription fee.

Allowing visitors to create social connections through conversations and live chats or access relevant and personalized content feeds can help you prove the value of your company’s community.

Content moderation is another critical part of establishing your digital properties as a healthy, worthwhile environment for engagement. 

According to Zohar, people that want to join a digital community are often pursuing meaningful conversations in a social environment that’s respectful and civil. 

Community hosts can implement a sophisticated moderation system to protect their social spaces from offensive behavior, keeping conversation meaningful and inviting.

It’s also important for community hosts to engage directly with their visitors, whether that be by highlighting good behavior in the community or prompting discussion.

At the moment, sustainability lies in your ability to monetize your audience. And, as you now know, you can unlock reader loyalty and revenue by establishing a highly engaged, interconnected community around your company. 

For more information on how to run better digital communities, you can view the entire podcast here.

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