Don't feed the trolls is advice commonly given about debates in online forums, both within and outside geek feminism discussions.
The idea behind not feeding (interacting with) the trolls is that people who write very inflammatory things are doing so in order to provoke a reaction from people and that if they are ignored they will eventually get fed up and disappear.
But not feeding the trolls is not so simple, for various reasons (reasons particularly relevant to women or geek feminism debates are in bold):
- the community needs to be perfectly united in ignoring trolls, which can be problematic because:
- newcomers to online debates will not recognise trolling tactics or know the standard procedure and will engage with the troll as a particularly tempting target
- trolls are sometimes happy to engage with each other
- some trolls, especially on sensitive topics like feminism, do not require a reaction in the forum, they know or imagine that they're upsetting people even without direct responses
- letting women who aren't practiced at debate or anger use the trolls as target practice can be educational
- leaving trolling comments visible is confusing or threatening to people looking for or simply expecting or accustomed to safe spaces
- leaving trolling comments visible without replies makes the trolls comments look as if they're normal for that forum, so normal that no one even bothered replying
Ignoring the trolls is more successful when combined with active moderation.
- Charles' Rules of Argument, a slightly more nuanced theory about interacting online.