Internet Elves



By Stefan Theil



[This piece, researched and written by Stefan Theil, was translated and adapted from its original version by the F Come team]



Internet Elves’ are all those online activists, and sometimes general users, who find themselves attacked by nasty Trolls. Trolls try to make Elves feel unsafe, belittled and isolated and can give them a very hard time. Here are a few suggestions to defend yourself and keeping up the good work!


How to protect yourself from harassment and doxing

  • Make your timeline and posts private, and limit the information you publicly disclose on your profile: don’t give away information that could be used against you by malicious users and don’t accept friend requests from people you do not know.
  • Set up a strong password for your account and associated Email address, activate two-factor authentication and consider using a password manager. Never use the same password twice.
  • Block and report anyone who harasses you.



How to take down a troll

  • Identify: A troll is someone who persistently seeks to derail discussions through abuse, taunting, bullying, doxing and threats of violence. Above all, trolls seek attention, and enjoy the outrage they foster. A troll is NOT someone who disagrees with your point of view, dislikes your work, or disapproves of your choices: rather, a troll is defined through the manner and style in which they express disapproval.
  • Label: Let everyone around you know that you have identified a troll to prevent them from falling into their trap. A simple one-liner is usually most effective: ‘[InsertUsername] is a troll’ or simply ‘Troll’.
  • Isolate: The best way of dealing with a troll is ignoring them and encouraging others to do the same. Remember, trolls seek attention, and will say almost anything to provoke a response. Don’t react to their comments, don’t engage them, and don’t address them directly.
  • Optional: If you want to take your troll fighting skills to the next level, you can experiment with humour and unleash your inner credible hulk, wherever appropriate: however, it can be tricky to pull off effectively and can also backfire if you are not careful.
  • Report: report every comment the troll makes that breaches community standards, especially when it involves hate speech.


How to spot a fake account

  1. Characteristics: There are two kinds of fake accounts. They can be either entirely automated accounts (so-called ‘bots’), which are designed to post, comment, like and friend people to appear legitimate OR profiles where somebody is pretending to be someone they are not to obscure their real identity.
  2. Identify: Keep a lookout for the tell-tale signs,
      • profile pictures lifted from other sites (use a reverse image search to find them),
      • walls that are mostly blank or filled with random content
      • weird biographies: somebody born in South Africa, who went to school in Melbourne and now works in rural Ohio should raise your suspicion
      • ‘likes’ for seemingly unrelated and random things
      • Does not respond to direct messages, as bots are usually not programmed to do that
  3. Report: You can report fake accounts by going to their profiles.


How to stop the spread of fake news

  • Identify: look for the tell-tale signs of fake news and search this extensive list of known fake news outlets compiled by Melissa Zimdars (Associate Professor at Merrimack College), to determine if a source is trustworthy. Remember that even reputable sources get it wrong, and reports are retracted from time to time.
  • Bonus: If you use Google Chrome, there are extensions that can flag fake news for you.
  • Label: once you have identified an unreliable source or fake content, let others know. Label it as ‘fake’ and provide references to support your claim. Challenge the person sharing the fake content to provide a credible source.
  • Report: report fake news to have it removed.




Stefan Theil is a PhD candidate in law at the University of Cambridge and a part time Internet elf. For more info click here.




Fake News




Internet Elves






(Photo source_Jim Cooke,




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