Dhamma trolling​, how to address it?

It is sad to realise that trolls end up being the antithesis of the good companion (kalyana mitta), isn’t it?

Trolls are far from being endowed with suitable conduct and resort, seeing danger in the slightest fault.

Their modes of conversation are far from being suitable for opening up the mind, and pointing disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, peace, deep knowledge, complete Awakening and Emancipation.

Their occupation is actually the opposite: they seem to enjoy enticing anxiety. Resorting to calling people names they usually force others into their labels and push conversations to a sort of “you’re wrong, lost, I am right” dead-end, without offering any way or support in terms of getting the counterpart anywhere closer to peace and freedom.

Hence, when it comes to dealing with trolls here in SC it has been immensely helpful to me to keep in mind what is recorded in the AN5.159:

It’s not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda. The Dhamma should be taught to others only when five qualities are established within the person teaching. Which five?
“[1] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak step-by-step.’
“[2] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak explaining the sequence [of cause & effect].’
“[3] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak out of compassion.’
“[4] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak not for the purpose of material reward.’
“[5] The Dhamma should be taught with the thought, ‘I will speak without hurting myself or others.’
“It’s not easy to teach the Dhamma to others, Ananda.
The Dhamma should be taught to others only when these five qualities are established within the person teaching.”

Anyone who tries to teach another Dhamma by missing any of the five things above could be understood as a Dhamma troll. And remember, the best way to deal with those is to not feed them! :wink:

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Once the first steps are taken - of knowing what makes one a Dhamma troll and making the good and right effort of not being one yourself - we need to bring our minds to how to subdue the negative states that sometimes arise from interacting with trolls.

And the best reference I have found in that sense are Sariputta’s advice on how to subdue anger recorded in the AN5.162.

Does anyone know of any similar or complementary teaching in regards to dealing with the anger and disappointment usually triggered by the interaction with those given to the behaviour of Dhamma trolling?

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I think this is worth exploring. In terms of Right speech wouldn’t it be better if we call this Trolling behaviour (or wrong speech on dhamma forums) rather than Trolls? I doubt people are just of one dimension. They maybe good friends, siblings, etc in other aspects of their lives. If only for our peace of mind we should consider this possibility (as it can be difficult to know over the internet).

This applies not only for this but other things like mental health issues, over which a lot of stigma and discrimination. Let’s not forget we have all had transient trolling moments! No act is permanent.

Thinking of psychology - when we worry we maybe perceived/feeling guilty of trolling behaviour we may become defensive or via projection, accuse others of trolling.

With metta

Mat

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Imo, neither are particularly relevant because I doubt there is trolls or trolling behaviour on Buddhist forums. In my experience, there are just differences of opinions’.

Ud 4.1 states:

It can be expected, Meghiya, that for a monk who has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, that he will have talk that is very austere, that is suitable for opening up the mind, and that leads to absolute disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, peace, deep knowledge, complete Awakening and Emancipation

Thus, ultimately, the foremost dhamma discussion occurs with non-attachment towards the inevitable diversity of views.

Yes, certainly. There are countless teachings about mindfulness & wisdom at sense contact. However, Dhp 50 probably sums up the Buddha-Dhamma on this subject:

Dhp 50. Let none find fault with others; let none see the omissions and commissions of others. But let one see one’s own acts, done and undone.

With metta :bouquet:

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Dear @Gabriel_L,

thank you very much for pointing to these two suttas about the difficulties to teach Dhamma and how to subdue hatred. I love both of them!

However when it comes to calling somebody a troll I agree with @Mat. There is not a person who is a troll. There are only people who sometimes show a certain kind of inappropriate behaviour. At other times they might behave in very appropriate and nice ways.

This doesn’t mean we should just accept any kind of behaviour. It is of course important to criticise a behaviour when it is inappropriate. But we shouldn’t criticise the person! Does calling somebody a “troll” not also mean calling them a name?

On this forum there are so many really good discussions with people expressing different views and opinions while being kind towards each other - this is something I appreciate very much, and I just would like to say thank you to everybody!

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I don’t agree. Over the past ten years I’ve seen all kinds of poor behaviour on Buddhist forums.

The most insidious is asking seemingly innocent, naive-sounding, questions to elicit a response that can then be ridiculed. When that first happened to me, back on E-Sangha, it initially shook my confidence. However, I soon realised that it was just a particularly nasty form of Internet bullying. Luckily it’s easy to ignore such nonsense once it is recognised.

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Sure it does! Maybe the issue is how to address and deal with Dhamma trolling events.

While these events are the manifestation of a behaviour that is definetely something for individuals to recognise and address themselves, they do affect all involved.

The issue is that Dhamma trolling usually ends up killing the mood around and most importantly not creating the sort of discourse and conversation that inspire people to peace and harmony.

Dhamma trolling polarises and pushes people to defensive stance, it instigates a sort of advocacy debate that almost never leads to agreeable disagreement.

I personally tend to learn basic but important things more consistently when relaxed and among friends.

As I see individuals recurringly making me the target of their trolling habits I can only choose but to ignore them.

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Indeed this is the most corrosive sort of trolling event - and is not uncommon around here.

What I think is important to note is how differently individuals who we know are advanced and really invested in the path (usually the case of bhikkhus and bhikkhunis) tend to be much less prone to trolling behaviour (I would say they usually don’t manifest it at all).

Usually they do as well teach us through their actions how to react to such events with kindness and wisdom.

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[quote=“mikenz66, post:6, topic:4806”]
I don’t agree. Over the past ten years I’ve seen all kinds of poor behaviour on Buddhist forums…back on E-Sangha[/quote]

Most of the poor behaviour I witnessed was from moderators, particularly on E-Sangha, some of whom were then repatriated on another forum & continued their censorship & injustices.

Generally, things like this occur when moderators are engaged in censorship thus the good-will members reborn as ‘trollers’ are engaging in a kind of ‘fun revenge’. The problem generally starts with the moderators who want to push a certain doctrinal position. Regardless, how can the True Dhamma be ridiculed?

I think it is a matter of respect. For example, when I receive respect, I have a tendency to extend that respect to those givers of respect. In other words, I generally won’t respond to their posts when I disagree with their posts (unless my response is harmonious).

:koala:

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Indeed, different people have different perceptions of their behaviour, and the behaviour of others.

Speaking of past lives:

’Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
“Come in,” she said, “I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
https://bobdylan.com/songs/shelter-storm/

It was the individual who was being ridiculed, not the Dhamma.

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Most of the poor behaviour I witnessed was from moderators, particularly on E-Sangha, some of whom were then repatriated on another forum & continued their censorship & injustices.

I agree. In general you have a better chance of seeing injustice and bad behavior from moderators than from normal members. It is a well known phenomenon on internet forums and it happens because there is no possibility to govern a forum in democratic way. Some things can be governed in a democratic way, but others such as private business or internet forums can not. If somebody would try to govern a forum or a private business in a democratic way, it would be even worse.

The Internet is an extension of the real-life Narcissistic Pathological Space but without its risks, injuries, and disappointments. It allows the narcissist to enact and act out his grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and omnipotence, brilliance and perfection, self-righteousness and superiority with impunity.

Many moderators and owners of discussion groups and support forums, for instance, are tyrannical narcissistic bullies with little or no impulse control and the tendency to form cult-like settings where the wayward are sadistically penalized and publicly humiliated by peers for speaking out of turn and in contravention of the “party line.”

http://samvak.tripod.com/journal67.html

Religious forums in general are even more prone to this because self-righteousness and superiority levels are much bigger than on a fishing or motorcycle forum for example.

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Being a moderator is hard work. Hard work I underestimated before I became one :laughing:
You’re balancing a lot of different people’s opinions and desires in your mind, as well as your own, and trying to find the best solution for the community, as well as the individuals that make it up.

It’s true the process is not democratic… I guess it’s oligarchic, but we do really spend much time and pained contemplation and stress trying to do the right thing.

I know how much this forum has meant to me, and I know it means much to others too. I know it is not my right to be on this forum, it is a privilege. It’s a jewel to find a relatively safe place on the Internet to have some dhamma (and other!) discussion. However, the privelege to be on this forum does not include the privelege to say and do what I want.

So I both want people to enjoy their time here, but also keep it a safe and welcoming place, and sometimes those goals are at odds. It does seriously pain me when I have to take actions against people, or even to discuss with people if there has been an issue. No-one likes to be corrected, or told that they’ve done something wrong. And 99% of people resist criticism, complain, explain away their poor behavior. As Buddhists we should be willing to volunteer our faults, and more open than any to change.

However I strongly believe correction and moderation is essential for us to grow as people and as a community.

I truly believe it’s impossible to get it 100% right as a moderator. So I forgive myself, even when I feel sad that I need to exclude someone or delete a post. There will always be praise and blame. Always praise and blame.

So on the outside you see one action. But you don’t see what’s going on inside. The struggle, the deliberation, the hundreds of second chances. The inherent pain of it. But as wonderful as this place is, it’s still samsara, so I wouldn’t expect anything less.

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In my opinion, if we feel like somebody had done an injustice to us somewhere on the internet, we should report it to the moderators (if it is against the rules and not just something in our head) and not spend too much time thinking about it. If we spend too much time thinking about it and start insulting them back by calling them trolls, that is not going to help us in any way. Like Buddha said, that is like keeping a hot iron ball in our hand.

“He insulted me, hit me, beat me, robbed me” — for those who brood on this, hostility isn’t stilled. “He insulted me, hit me, beat me, robbed me” — for those who don’t brood on this, hostility is stilled. Hostilities aren’t stilled through hostility, regardless. Hostilities are stilled through non-hostility: this, an unending truth.

On the other hand if we feel mistreated by moderation, we should think about the fact that moderation is a hard job and has a tendency to make people more authoritarian. Even good people can become very authoritarian in such a position because absolute power corrupts in absolute ways. Maybe if we would be moderators ourselves, we would be much more authoritarian than we imagine. Things are not always black and white, with people being either angels or demons. Things are usually gray in this world with conditions playing a big part in a situation. In general, moderators are the last persons to get any kind of compassion when they do a mistake. People always expect them to be perfect.

A good guide on good forum governorship:

Tip 2: Mods Should Not Care More About the Site than its Owner
This tip is probably the most important. As the site’s owner, you have the most interest in seeing it thrive and succeed. Now don’t get me wrong, your mods must be interested in the site but it is a recipe for disaster if they care too much. Members that take the forum too seriously will also tend to take their role as a mod too seriously. You have probably encountered overly-serious mods at one time or another and you know what a buzz kill they can be. Serious mods tend to go “Gestapo” and strictly enforce rules and ban any poster who “threatens harmony on the site” (which to them, often means disagreeing with them). Serious mods kill a site faster than even trolls and spammers can and will drive away members in droves. Ideal mods do just enough to keep the forum running smoothly without taking the site (or themselves) too seriously. This is one reason I never tap a member as a mod who has asked to be a mod.

Tip 3: Never Make an Emotional Member a Mod
Related to Tip 2, never offer a modship to a member who is easily agitated or emotional. If a member is known to react strongly to perceived insults from other members or becomes hurt when disagreed with, as a mod they may inappropriately abuse their mod powers to “get back” at members who they think insulted them. Emotional mods tend to make arbitrary decisions in the heat of the moment and play favorites with your members - both very bad things.

I’ve seen many topics complaining about trolls or mods in my life. But not even once have I ever seen a topic about “compassion for trolls” or “compassion for moderators”. It’s more easy to condemn and label a person than to try to show understanding.

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Let’s then take the opportunity and make it happen then! :slight_smile:

One idea may be to incentivize those prone to trolling behaviour to channel their energy otherwise. This is a challenge I take myself!

They are usually great at googling stuff to quote and make their points, why not encourage them to come up with study guides or essays wrapping up their mind maps of what Buddhism or Dhamma is or not about.

Some others usually are good at cross-checking how Buddhist terms are or not understood the same way under different spiritual traditions. Again, they could be encouraged to start friendly conversations by sharing their findings and allowing others to opine on that.

Some others are very adamant about how certain things should be taken when it comes to practical aspects of the path. And again, we should encourage them to share that back to the world in a clean but open-for-diverging-opinion way.

Some others are very knowledgeable about the complexity of the grammar and sintax of EBTs. A very important aspect when it comes to getting a clear picture of what the texts can be said to say or not about important concepts and practices. And again we should encourage them to share that to the world in a way that may benefit the most those present now or in the future.

We need to above all make sure everyone understands how trolling behaviour usually makes things hard in the sense of keeping things tidy. It is very frustrating to see sometimes discussions which had a nice begining, with people harmoniously sharing their findings and inputs towards a better understanding of EBTs totally diverged by aggressiveness and polarization.

I would to take a chance to quote few things D&D’s guidelines that may help us shape the conversation from this point onwards:

The main theme of this site is Early Buddhism.
We are interested to discuss early Buddhist texts, their meaning and historical context, how these teachings evolve and relate to later traditions, and how they may be applied in the present day.
If you’re interested in a more general Buddhist discussion, there are plenty of other great forums out there.
(…)
We, too, are a community spiritual center — a place to share insights, ideas, questions, and responses through the practice of Right Speech.
This is our spiritual home, which we have built with our time, love, and expertise.
(…)
Please treat this discussion forum with the same respect you would a temple.

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