Best Way To Handle Online Bullies: Confront Them

Over the holiday break, I read with interest an article penned by Adam Goldenberg in Maclean’s Magazine where Mr. Goldenberg called out a number of “anonymous cowards” who were tweeting mean and vicious comments about the tragic suicide of former MPP George Smitherman’s husband, Christopher Peloso.

Goldenberg vented about living in the “age of faceless troglodytes”, calling on society to work harder to change the venomous views of those who spew racist, hateful and bigoted remarks online. A tall order – one that I see quite often on the Internet whenever regular folk take notice of the comments posted each day on Twitter, Facebook and various comment sections.

Rather than trying to change the nature of people (an impossible mission to be sure, at least in the short term) and howl about how rude and callous people can be online, more people should call out these bullies online, or bring attention to situations where someone is actively being bullied.

That’s what Mr. Goldenberg did and the results were fantastic. Goldenberg started retweeting the comments and confronting them directly. The result? The bullies were put on the defensive and scattered almost immediately. One of them, @kevinrenouf, deleted all of his tweets and went into hiding:


Good for Mr. Goldenberg – he achieved solid results just by standing up and speaking out. Of course this kind of tactic takes effort. But, rather than let trolls, bullies or even opponents on a particular issue (in a more civilized context, mind you) have the run of the field, you can actually make gains if you or your team strategically respond.

I can think of one instance during a controversial campaign where a team of opponents would constantly comment on each post on a client Facebook Page – until we challenged their so-called facts. They responded tersely and never came back.

There is no need to respond to everyone. But the nature of bullies is to pick on those who can’t or won’t defend themselves. When confronted with someone who is willing to respond, they often move on or go silent.

If more people were willing to stop being lurkers, stand up and be counted, that will do much more to combat bullies and trolls than try to change human nature. Agree? Disagree? I encourage you to leave a comment.

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