Sometimes trial and error—and a sense of humor—is the best approach when exploring new strategies to push back against online harassment.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of experimental, off-the-wall ideas for tackling and tricking the trolls. While PEN America doesn’t explicitly endorse any of the following tactics, they may be useful for some targets of online harassment—if only for a moment of levity.
Donate to a cause your online harasser despises.
Writer Celeste Ng began donating $10 to the ACLU for every harassing comment she faced on Twitter—a tactic that worked to silence many of her trolls.
Change your online location to Germany.
In 2017, Wired contributing editor Virginia Heffernan made an interesting discovery: Because Germany has strict hate-speech laws, when she changed her Twitter location to Germany, her online harassment disappeared.
Tell on the trolls to their mothers.
When Amanda Kleinman found herself the target of vicious online trolling, she did what any reasonable grown adult might do: She emailed her trolls’ mothers and asked them to please speak to their children about their inappropriate behavior.
Bake a cake.
Copy editor Kat Thek moonlights as a troll-busting folk hero: She takes on clients who have been targeted by online harassment and bakes a cake for their harasser, recreating the offensive comment in colorful icing. The cakes are then delivered to the harasser’s home or place of work.
Create a “honeybot.”
Honeybots are an experimental technology used to bait online harassers so that they channel their rage toward fake people instead of actual ones. It’s not a great solution, as it doesn’t actually stop harassers from yelling, but it can save potential targets a lot of grief. Learn more about the honeybot creation here.
Start a podcast.
Writer and performer Dylan Marron was tired of being harassed online, so he decided to launch a podcast asking his online harassers directly: Why do you hate me?