By July 2, 2013 Read More →

What it’s like to be attacked by a troll

Shaking off a ‘poisonous puddle of troll bile’*

Work from Home book troll attackIt’s taken me almost four months to be able to write this post about my experience of a troll attack, and it’s still a difficult one to write objectively.

One evening in March I was casually checking the latest ratings on the Amazon page of my book Work from Home, which had had eleven 5-star reviews for months, when I spotted someone had given it a 1-star review.

But that shock was nothing compared to the contents of the ‘review’, which started by accusing the entire population of Bath of ‘having their head up “somewhere”’ and ended by calling me a slave-driver, thanking God they had borrowed the book and not bought it, and…a smiley face.

In between I was accused of bragging about my business achievements (a window cleaning business, apparently, which is news to me), writing uninteresting waffle, belittling my cleaners, controlling their personal lives and not doing the dirty work myself. In addition it seems I have no morals and am a stranger to hard work.

It’s hard to describe what it’s like to see lies written about you by a stranger and presented as facts on a public page. The shock literally takes your breath away and you can’t help asking yourself why anyone would take the time and trouble to do such a thing. Why and how can I have inspired such loathing, you wonder.

That, of course, is a question that’s not worth asking. Because this kind of spiteful retaliation is the action of a troll. I won’t dignify them by that other name of cyberbully, ‘troll’ is much more descriptive. A troll is a creature that lurks in the dark, too ugly to let itself be seen, so it hides behind an alias to unleash its venom, safe in the knowledge that the person it attacks can’t hit back.

And of course the worst response is to respond by addressing the accusations with the truth, because the truth is not a concept of any interest to a troll and has no place in its warped mind.

As illustrated by the comment the troll posted in reply to repudiations of their ‘review’. Apparently all the 5-star reviews and supportive comments have been posted by me and my ‘husband’ and we are ‘extremely dishonest to peddle your goods… in this fashion.’ Along with more poison about ‘useless waffle’ and ‘training for a real job would be too much hard work for the both of you’.

So my best course of action was to ask Amazon to remove the so-called review, which I felt clearly contravened their rules on not posting spiteful remarks. To cut a very long story short, after a number of emails to Amazon the ‘review’ was removed, only to reappear without warning a short while later. Apparently it ‘was initially removed incorrectly’ and ‘doesn’t violate our posted guidelines’. My question as to what exactly constitutes a spiteful remark was not answered.

There is a facility to report to Amazon comments that an author considers defamatory, which these remarks clearly are, but who would want to waste any more energy on such a negative, unpleasant and unproductive task?

All I can do is tough it out. I wince at the thought of people seeing that ‘review’, although everyone assures me it is so obviously unhinged that nobody sane is going to be put off. And my book does continue to sell.

Writing this I can feel myself getting angry and upset again. My only comfort, not that it’s any comfort at all, is that having started to talk about this, I’ve learned that so many other people have been on the receiving end of a troll attack.

The lovely and down-to-earth Claire Mitchell, of The Girls Mean Business, I know for a fact has helped many women to get their businesses going and back on track. Her amazing 30 Days to Boost Your Biz online course gets almost full marks in our review, and provides wonderful support for women running businesses from home who might otherwise feel too isolated to carry on. (And coincidentally starts again this very day if you feel in need of a boost in the company of likeminded women).

About the same time as me, Claire was subjected to a sustained troll attack on several platforms, including social media. She has written about the experience on her blog, and also very kindly posted a spirited defence of my book and me to the troll’s last comment.

It’s interesting to note the similarity in the bile both Claire and I received – a belittling of what we do, accusations of being fraudsters, of not being able or willing to ‘get a real job’.

You will probably be as horrified as I was at the number of people commenting on her blog who have had similar experiences or know someone who has. As one commenter says, ‘Clearly the person has their own issues, and is jealous of your success, so, I guess in a very strange way, it’s a sure sign you’ve made it once you have your own cyber stalker!’

Jealousy does seem to have a great deal to do with it, and a distorted perception of the reality of our lives. Both of us put in plenty of hard work and experience tough times and failure as well as a modest online profile. So remember, if this happens to you, it’s not you, it’s the troll… 🙁

* A ‘poisonous puddle of troll bile’ is how my Workhubs friend Lisa describes the ‘review’ in her comment on Amazon, providing one of the few lighthearted moments of this experience.

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14 Comments on "What it’s like to be attacked by a troll"

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  1. Sharon says:

    Well done for being brave enough to post this, I know how much it has affected you Judy.

    Message for Claire – I tried to post a comment on your blogpost but wasn’t allowed 🙁
    “It is awful how people feel they can say what they want behind the mask of an online persona. Thank you for sharing this & also some of the ways you dealt with the troll.”

    • And I’d like to thank you, Sharon, and all the readers who reported the ‘review’ as abuse. Unfortunately from my own experience and the research I’ve done into it, it seems this is disregarded.

  2. Louise says:

    Thank you for sharing your horrible experience Judy.

    It’s unfortunate that the anonymity of the internet gives these cowards a platform. They obviously don’t have the courage to use their real names.

    The best way to tackle the ‘dark side’ is exactly as you have done – by shining a bright light.

    On the plus side, there are many more supportive people who appreciate everything you generously share.

    Yours is one of the few blogs I always click through to read 🙂

  3. I’m so sorry to hear about this Judy. Anything I can do to help, please let me know?

    • That’s a kind offer, Candace, thank you. Having failed to persuade Amazon to remove the remarks, I simply couldn’t face pursuing a defamation claim and having the troll take up more of my time and energy.

  4. Lisa Thompson says:

    Attagirl Judy! I only wish I could also mop up the puddle and disinfect the ugly stain. Troll world must be a nasty, sad place and Amazon should be ashamed that they’ve allowed that fetid lump of wholly unjustified spite to remain intact.

  5. Irina says:

    Sorry to hear that, Judy. That is one major reason why I am still wondering whether to open a shop for my products on Amazon – anyone can say literally anything they want without having to substantiate it. Good to know you are over it. Irina

    • Thanks, Irina 🙂 It’s a sad sign of the times when it becomes a serious business consideration, but you are absolutely right to think about it. We have friends with a B&B who have suffered from attacks on Tripadvisor, and that’s really horrible because you’ve had people in your home who said nothing at the time but then went away and wrote nasty things about you. Good luck with your deliberations.

  6. Rosie says:

    Well done on bringing this issue into the light. The unfounded remarks of one sad troll does not take away from the positive impact you have had on so many. I for one loved your book and found it extremely helpful and your website & tweets are a daily indulgence. Keep up the good work.

    • Aw, thanks, Rosie, how wonderful to be a ‘daily indulgence’ – makes me sound like chocolate 🙂 And no calories! I’m going to have to incorporate that into my marketing in some way:
      Work from Home Wisdom – your daily indulgence.
      Could become as big as ‘Because you’re worth it’.

  7. I admire you for coming out Judy. More power to your elbow. Laine xx