The internet is a place where information flows like a flooded river; fast and deep and without restraint.
This can help people find knowledge, socialize and advertise without any boundaries. In the information age, generations X/Y have been able to find whatever they needed to know at the click of a mouse. Everything from research to games, online communities to shopping is wrapped up in a nice little package called the internet. Unfortunately, these things are not always used for good.
When reading a book like J.R. Tolkien's Fellowship of the Rings trilogy, or any other fantasy series, there are certain creatures that stick out in your mind. There are dwarves, orcs and any other manner of being. One in particular is a troll. These are ravenous, evil creatures that can only be killed by fire. They regenerate if you cut them in half, and they are incredibly difficult to kill. Large, loud and unpredictable, they are one of the most despised creatures in any fantasy realm.
Is that an unrelated aside? No. Meet the 21st century troll.
There is a new breed of internet bloggers that takes negativity to a new level. They take any and all means necessary to make fun and disrupt the lives of others. They are called trolls, and they exhibit many of the characteristics of the fantasy trolls listed above. They live amongst us, but meet in tribes and packs on various message boards throughout the internet.
Mostly universally disdained by the rest of the internet community, trolls are like adolescents that never grew up on the inside.
One example was given in a New York Times article about a young boy that committed suicide. They found out about him, and found some of the circumstance surrounding the life and death of this kid funny. For the next year and a half, they badgered the parents and made mockeries all over the internet. While this is certainly an extreme case of unwarranted hate and immorality, the same thing could happen to your small business.
Trolls and the generic hate mongers on the internet usually look for people that seem to be asking for mockery. This could be the over the top attorney, or any other combination of cockiness and arrogance they can find.
Generally, trolls start with a hook, and if the target doesn't "get the joke" then they sic their legions on the target. This can take the form of hacking the site, blogging relentlessly, creating false reports, rumor mongering, telephone calls to the home of the target and more.
In order for you to avoid this sort of thing, it would be best to keep an eye out for strange and unsolicited messages. Reacting in a negative or rude way to one of these trolls just shows them that you are sensitive enough to be toyed with. As one troll put it, if you get the joke then you get to be in on it.
For small businesses, it is generally safe to say that you aren't the trolls' main target. If you get into battles on forums or any other online community, it may be dangerous. Just remember that being the bigger person and refraining from being rude and arrogant whenever dealing with people is the best way to go. This is even truer when dealing with this new breed of online denizen.