This is a fascinating, terrifying, uncomfortable, baffling, mind-boggling book. As a person who spends a lot of time online, including on social media, of course I was aware of trolls and had even had my own encounters with some of them. But what I experienced was nothing compared to other people out there. In 2010, Gorman was involved in a media story that led her to be aggressively and horrifically trolled online, including being doxed and the subject of terrifying threats of violence to her and her family, including at least one death threat. As she had a husband and small child, she was terrified for the safety of herself and her family. Going to the police resulted in nothing.
She became fascinated with what she calls ‘predator trolls’ and set out over the next few years to research them and write the book. The content of the book is simply extraordinary. She gains access to some of the most notorious online trolls, including weev (who actually spent time in gaol in the USA due to the aftermath of some of his trolling) and interviews them, trying to understand their motives and drivers. She interviews the victims of online hate and comes to know the very real harm and damage that can be done by predator trolls, not just mental and emotional damage but economical damage, particularly to people like journalists who, these days, simply have to be online to do their jobs, but that also makes them vulnerable to trolls. If they can’t go online though, they can’t do their jobs. It’s an almost unbelievable read but all too true. It was utterly fascinating and I couldn't put it down.
In 2013, journalist Ginger Gorman was trolled online. She received scores of hateful tweets, including a death threat. A picture of Ginger heavily pregnant alongside her husband and two-and-half year old daughter appeared on a fascist website. Understandably she was terrified, but once the attack subsided, she found herself curious. Who were these trolls? And how and why did they coordinate such an attack? And how does someone fight back? Over the next five years Gorman spoke to psychologists, trolling victims, law enforcement, academics and, most importantly, the trolls themselves, embedding herself into their online communities and their psyches in ways she had never anticipated. What she discovered was both profoundly shocking and fascinating. Syndicates of highly organised predator trolls across the globe systematically set out to disrupt and disturb. Some want to highlight the media’s alleged left-wing bias, some want to bring down capitalism, and some just want to have fun. Even if it means destroying someone’s life. . . The personal costs endured by the targets of trolling are frequently extreme, and victims usually find themselves frightened and alone. And what about the very real financial and economic costs of cyberhate? New research is finally putting a number on the shocking true cost to both individuals and the community. Gorman has uncovered links between trolling and cyberhate to real-life crimes such as terrorism, domestic violence and incitement to suicide. She has also mapped out a cohort of men – mostly angry young and white – who rightly or wrongly feel marginalised and disenfranchised; they are using the internet to express this. An intense and compelling read, Troll Hunting is an important window into not just the mindset and motivation of trolls, but the history of this kind of aberrant behaviour. Ginger Gorman has gained unprecedented access to trolls, even formed strange and enduring relationships with them, and her comprehensive investigation into what makes them tick has given us a brilliant book that is impossible to put down.
About the Author
Ginger Gorman is an award-winning journalist based in Canberra, Australia. In 2017 her series of articles on trolling for Fairfax newspapers went viral and became one of most read stories of the year.