The Secret Playbook of Internet Trolls

George Washington's picture

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
What’s confusing you
Is the nature of my game

- The Rolling Stones

The reason that Internet trolls are effective is that people still don’t understand their game.

There are 15 commonly-used trolling tactics to disrupt, misdirect and control internet discussions.

As one interesting example, trolls start flame wars because – according to two professors – swearing and name-calling shut down our ability to think and focus.

And trolls will often spew divisive attacks so that people argue against each other, instead of bad actions and policies of the powers-that-be.   For example, trolls will:

Start a religious war whenever possible using stereotypes like “all Jews are selfish”, “all Christians are crazy” or “all Muslims are terrorists”.

Yesterday, the alternative news site Common Dreams caught a troll using scores of different user names to spew anti-Semitic bile. (Common Dreams discovered that the same troll was behind the multiple user names by tracking their IP addresses. And the troll confessed to Common Dreams.)

The troll is a “a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website’s discussion of issues involving Israel”.

He posted anti-Semitic diatribes – such as Hitler should have finished the job and killed all Jews – using one alias.  Then – a couple of minutes later – he’d post an attack on the first poster using a different alias, claiming that criticism of Israel is the same thing as anti-Semitism.  (Note: Holocaust survivors and Israeli ministers say it’s not.)

Why would a Jew post vile anti-Semitic comments?  Because normal people are offended by – and don’t want to be associated with – pure, naked anti-Semitism, and so they will avoid such discussions.  If the discussion was originally criticizing a specific aspect of Israeli policy, the discussion will break down, and the actual point regarding policy will be lost.

Similarly, anti-Semitic posts weaken websites by making them seem less reputable. Indeed, Common Dreams says that the troll’s anti-Semitic comments drove away many of that site’s largest donors … dealing a severe blow to its continued viability. That’s exactly what trolls spewing anti-Semitic bile are trying to do: shut down logical discussion and discredit and weaken sites which allow rational criticism of policy.

It is well-known that foreign  governments and large companies troll online. See this, this this, and this. For example, the Israeli government is paying students to post pro-Israeli comments online.

And American students are also attempting to influence internet discussion.

While the Common Dreams troll claims that he’s not sponsored by the state of Israel, government  agencies have manipulated  Internet discussion for years. This includes the use of multiple “socket puppet” aliases.  The potential for mischief is stunning.

Unless we learn their game …

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tradewithdave's picture

Guess that explains Russell Brand's red and white logo and that aryan german shepherd in his logo.  Trews.... rhymes with?  Oh yes... news. 

StychoKiller's picture

Just checking in to state that I'm not a troll!  Most of my comments are either observations, or pitiful attempts at levity.

Two dogs's picture

Wikipedia has an on-line tutorial on how to game the system  It was probably written originally to deter people,  but the shills on Wikipedia just use it as a how-to guide.

Ginsengbull's picture

Trolls troll because it is fun.

NaN's picture

You mean, like vandals vandalize because it is fun?

lakecity55's picture

GW, the best way to handle trolls on a site is to ignore them.

If you go to Breitbart, they start out a discussion and a troll diverts the discussion away from the subject.

The other pain is the money-trolls who post the BS about "my sister makes 50$ and hour as a virtual hooker BS."

ZH posters are more aware of these tricksters.

The big clue I have seen are posters who have only registered very recently. I don't know about now, but ZH used to make you wait about a week before you could post.

3rd Pig's picture


What about institutionalised “GREEN TROLLS” like that pair of fuck knuckles at the Guardian, John Abraham & Dana Nuccitelli.

These eco Nazis delete 30% of their blog contributions for the slightest whiff of climate dissention.

Agenda 21 gatekeeping mother fuckers!


nmewn's picture

I've often wondered, if a troll (or psy-op, whatever) wanted "the truth" to be obscured, would they resort to endless rabbit holes and never admit their mistake for pointing people to those rabbit holes?

Would that be trollish or just yellowish? ;-)

robnume's picture

Yes, Sgt. Doom, from comments page 1, I have experienced censorship at a website which I had received on my homepage for over 10 years. That site is NakedCapitalism. I believe I made the mistake of referring to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who is my non-representative USSA Sr. Senator, as "Feinswine". This was in reference to a story on NakedCapitalism regarding Feinstein and her criminal spouse's attempts to privatize the USPS. Her husband is actually an RE broker who is up to his neck in shenanigans pertaining to USPS properties in the state of CA. As I tried to access the page the next morning - it was one of my favorites - I was told that I was kicked off of the site forever by the "Administrator," no reason given. I couldn't believe it. I didn't know that Yves - not her real name - was so chummy with Feinswine and her husband. If they were friends, why would she even post that article on the USPS? At any rate, when I looked up who she really was, I understood. I have suspected that some ZH posts were trolls, since they make such personal attacks on one another, most of which are totally off point, disregarding the subject matter at hand. I have never and I never will, attack anyone on any site for their views. Perception is reality and we don't all have the same life experiences. Whomever you are out there, you have my respect simply because you are a human being, too. Disclaimer: I reserve the right to disrespect trolls, politicians, TPTB, CONgress, NSA, FBI, CIA, Mossad and any other bomb hungry m'fuckers and/or colonialists.

NaN's picture

> Feinswine
That's funny, but it is still name calling.

The head of the so-called Intelligence Committee defends the Patriot Act, and that's depressing.

Harriet Wanger's picture

I'd worry more about the mainstream stories than the comments. Why did you know that Russia is invading Ukraine as I type this? After the military invasion of Crimea? What's absolutely scary is not that some peon might believe the crap that's spewed out of what are supposed to be respectable media outlets, but that the people with their fingers on the triggers of nuclear weapons think that the peons actually believe their bullshit.

Flybyknight's picture

I don't understand your post. I think Russia is basically the "good guy' in this situation. They  have acted with restraint and provided some protection to people who are treated worse than livestock by the Kiev, US puppet Ukrainians. (The ones who murdered the passengers and crew of MH17 and got away with it.

Are you providing an example of troll behaviour?

Absinthe Minded's picture

"I'd worry more about the mainstream stories than the comments. Why did you know that Russia is invading Ukraine as I type this? "

I believe what Ms. Wanger is saying is that MSM outlets are reporting that Russia is invading Ukraine, when in fact they are trying to bring aid to Eastern Ukraine Russians. The US military soldiers who have their finger on the nuke button have the full backing of Joe six-pack who has their head up their ass.

Sad but true.

Who was that masked man's picture

So, in other words, anyone who doesn't toe the ZH line, fails to get into lock-step with ZH ultra dogma, dares to have an original opinion, or wishes to engage in an interesting discussion, is a "troll"?   Hmmmm.

nmewn's picture

That would be #7, I think, I can never keep up with the attacks on free speech these days ;-)

Bendromeda Strain's picture

All I know is, I have respect for GW even if I often disagree. However, I do hate the see the "this and this and this and this" style of information dissemination. I usually get pissed off by the time I give him the benefit of the doubt and check his links - LIKE THIS TIME. Hey GW, I see you can find evidence of Jewish, Chinese and Libertarian trolls (and Lifestyle Lift? lol)... congratulations pal, go buy yourself a deerstalker and a pipe. It must warm your heart that Progressives and Muslims are still blameless in this game.


nmewn's picture

Well, I guess thats where I'm at, I can respect his opinion even though I disagree with it.

Where I critique him is pretty much the same, the "this and this and this and this" style usually leading back to his website (instead of the original source), his habitual avoidance of any recognition of any other players/influences on the world stage and now (apparently) any disagreement with his (or his followers) world view clearly marks one as a troll, why the proof that I am a troll is simple...all you have to do is count the down arrows!

A unique way of kafka trapping by "democracy" instead of proof to be sure...but still unseemly for what Fight Club is.

He can pull that shit all he wants on his site but not here ;-)

One of We's picture

Correction: trolls are basement dwellers seeking any attention, the shill is the disinformation agent....

CH1's picture

That’s exactly what trolls spewing anti-Semitic bile are trying to do: shut down logical discussion and discredit and weaken sites which allow rational criticism of policy.

Explains the Nazi trolls here.

RECISION's picture

Will be interesting to see which User-Names DONT show up in this discussion thread...

assistedliving's picture

''Aipac lay leaders and staff met with every senator up for re-election except one, plus 49 Senate challengers and 205 House challengers, including every new freshman member.''


shovelhead's picture

No shit.

That's what all lobbyists do.

You want the money you vote the right way

If I were King this would be illegal. Every registered voter would have a maximum of $500 to spend in any election that they were eligible to vote in. No special interest groups allowed. Period.

If you wanted to give the total to a pro NRA rep in your district that would be fine but you may not contribute to anyone else that year. Your SS# would be tied to your contribution so no illegal aliens or foreign contributions could be received.

The local registrar of voters would record all contributions in an account in person or by mail with a stamped addressed envelope enclosed to the eligible candidate. Online donations would be assigned a registered code # by the registrar.

$500 to keep an honest guy like me King would be a bargain.

And a guy like Obama would be ineligible to vote with a Conn. SS# that belonged to a dead guy.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

It was just the other day I learned what a Concern-Troll is.

I believe some of MDB's posts qualify.

Pretending to be on one side of an issue, giving concern, but then showing concern for "issues" about "those positions" and in the process shifting over to an opposing position while pretending not to be (at first).

I must say, I am very worried about concern-trolls. If they get a foot-hold what will the rest of us honest trolls do?

limacon's picture

There is a troll under every bridge over troubled waters.
Why the species is going extinct.

falconflight's picture

Jesus, look at what these ZioNazi pigs are doing then accusing regular folks (Muslims?) of doing:

A Jewish school in Copenhagen had its windows smashed and anti-Jewish graffiti referring to the conflict in Gaza spray-painted on its walls, the school said on Friday.



Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

Also for good reading on standard techniques used. These are all tried and true techniques, next time you read the MSM you'll recognize the techniques at play in real time.

Twenty-Five Ways To Suppress Truth:   The Rules of Disinformation  (Includes The 8 Traits of A Disinformationalist) 

This was always a good primer to read along with the next link

Eight Traits of the Disinformationalist

There really is no secrets once you understand the techniques. The bullshit being spewed becomes incidental and easy to discern once the technique(s) is spotted.

Liberty2012's picture

The problem is that, just like spam, it wastes your time.

WhyWait's picture

More good reads, thank you Dewey.

For a truth-teller, reading through the ways to suppress truths can feel overwhelming.  The game is so completely asymmetrical.  Real expertise in any game requires being able to put yourself in the opponent's shoes, but there are few items in the list of 25 on the Whale site that I would ever use. This makes it hard to develop any kind of expertise. 

Defectors coming over from the dark side have a special and vital contribution to make here.

MeelionDollerBogus's picture

Honestly I find approaching not difficult at all.
Rule #1 ask if information given is verifiable. If not, red flag
Rule #2 ask if information is given as primarily emotional or persuasive. If yes, red flag.
Too many red flags: ignore and/or troll-respond. Response: if funny and/or sarcastic use counter-sarcasm, meme or various choices of troll-baiting
If too many troll-responses today: let someone else save the Internets, pass on the superman cape.

sgt_doom's picture

This is an excellent post, but far more damaging is the fact that trolls (or chatbots or trollbots, automated software including site-generated chatbots) are being published at sites, while the very same sites are exhibiting enormous censorship.

Top Censored Sites:

Virtually any Canadian site and Swedish site one looks at.


About the ONLY site today which doesn't censor is!

sgt_doom's picture

Also should add:


WhyWait's picture

Sgt, can you take the time to say more about what you mean, what you know and how you know it?  

sgt_doom's picture

You've given me a generalized question, which might be real or might be a troll psyop.

On the chance that it is real, it is simply massive amounts of tedious research over the years, something we will never see in the Amerikan Corporate McNews today.

(occasionally some hacking involved, but that is about the only way to obtain factual financial data today)

For instance . . .

Over the past several decades, various political action groups I have been with have disseminated, or attempted to disseminate, actual facts and news to a variety of reporters across the spectrum, usually with little to no success.

Instead, that miserably whorescum who dare call themselves “journalists” and “reporters” continuously refuse to report any actual news to their fellow Americans.

During the Bush administration, newspapers and mags (including Mother Jones) would routinely mention D.J. Gribbin IV, without ever mention that he was Dick Cheney’s godson!

When G. W. Bush appointed Robert (Truesdale) Mueller III as the director of the FBI (reappointed by Obama, of course), not a single “reporter” or “journalist” mentioned that he was the grandnephew of Richard Bissell, one of the three top CIA guys fired by President Kennedy.  Nor did they mention that Mueller’s wife was the granddaughter of General Cabell, another of those three top CIA dudes fired by President Kennedy, which also made her the grandniece of the mayor of Dallas who ordered the last minute change in Kennedy’s motorcade, taking him to the point between the overpass, grassy knoll and Texas Schoolbook Depository, ensuring his murder.

When Obama appointed that neocon of neocons, James Comey, to be his FBI director, not a single newspaper mentioned that he was a board member of the National Chamber Litigation Center, not one single newsy could be bothered to look into his background?

Now, WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange is back in the news, and we find that if or when he is extradited to Sweden (even though the first Swedish federal judge questioned when there was any need whatsoever for extradition in his case, and was promptly replaced with a different and more acquiescent judge --- and the same question was posed by the first lord high justice in London during the first extradition case, and he too was promptly replaced --- none of which appeared to make it into any American newspaper or news online?) there is actually no need for any extradition court to transfer him immediately to the USA, thanks to a special supplemental treaty of 1984 between the USA and Sweden (TIAS 10812) allowing for anyone to be easily transferred to America should they request it.

Yet not a single so-called reporter or journalist in all of America, or all of the UK, or all of Sweden, could explain this to us?

Yet, there is a micron’s worth of hope today in Amerika.

With Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald at, and Pam Martens at, and a few others, we still have an incredibly small minority of real reportage occurring --- you just won’t find it on the boob tube!


WhyWait's picture

You're right, that was a bot-like question to a post that was a quick cry from the heart.  Thank you for a useful answer.  With useful links.  There's lots of sites out there; your recommendation matters.

I'm sure you have much more to say, and many other things to do with your time.

Otto Zitte's picture

Like all religious professionals, politicians, money lenders & academicians, trolls feast on the gullible & weak. All second handers. They just aren't as sophisticated. Give it time, its a new frontier.

ptoemmes's picture

Damn that's a good song.  Could be the NSA-CIA-FBI theme song.


The Rolling Stones - Sympathy For The Devil Lyrics
(M. Jagger/K. Richards)

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long years
Stole many a man's soul and faith

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
(woo woo, woo woo)

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
(woo woo, woo woo)

I shouted out,
"Who killed the Kennedys?"
When after all
It was you and me
(who who, who who)

Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
(woo woo, who who)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
(who who)
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
(who who, who who)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game
(woo woo, who who)

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint
(who who, who who)

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
(woo woo)
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah
(woo woo, woo woo)

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, um yeah
(who who)
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, um mean it, get down
(woo woo, woo woo)

Woo, who
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Oh yeah!
(woo woo)

Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what's my name
I tell you one time, you're to blame

Oh, who
woo, woo
Woo, who
Woo, woo
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Oh, yeah

What's my name
Tell me, baby, what's my name
Tell me, sweetie, what's my name

Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Woo, who, who
Oh, yeah
Woo woo
Woo woo

CheapBastard's picture
WARNING! These are pretty disturbing images so all of you delicate readers close your eyes while you read this:     Fuku Mutation? Two-Headed Whale Washes Up On Baja, California Beach!  


nope-1004's picture

Was this guy Francis Sawyer?


drunkenlout's picture

When government does trolling, how do they find the workforce in Utah to swear with such fluency?

Mi Naem's picture

"how do they find the workforce in Utah to swear with such fluency?"


From 'Jersey, ya thdooshbayug. 

Equality 7-25-1's picture

Shirley, nobody would do that hear.

himaroid's picture

Now that libs are in trouble they suddenly are concerned about trolls.....

WhyWait's picture

Thank you George, once again.  Great links.

I hesitate sometimes - too often - to forward ZH articles due to the heavy load of hateful comments. Bashing the haters often just makes it uglier and as we see can be part of the same game.  The hate-fest looks like an expression of the ZH community. While I read ZH regularly and prowl the comments for useful insights and links, I don't want to be known as a part of such a community.  Wwhat GW and the sources he links to have made plain is that this is almost certainly an illusion, deliberately fostered by paid or sponsored trolls.  

One takeaway from this is that I am resolved to forward ZH articles without letting the comments stop me. To withhold ZH articles because of them is to let myself be manipulated by those trolls, which is no doubt their primary purpose in the first place.  Perhaps I will include some kind of standard disclaimer, like "please don't judge this site by the troll-infested comments section."

Any of us who are serious about changing the national and world conversation and exposing truth to the light of day would do well to study GW's posts and links on this subject - including the Common Dreams article he refers to - and then take such steps as we each can to help protect ourselves, our favorite sites and the Internet itself.

WhyWait's picture

... and especially the last link, "stunning."

radiobomb's picture

+1.....same as you WW.

I do try & pull up the obvious skid-marks who always post off-topic 'hate'....

those that know this site see  the regular trolls expose themselves  in their comments using many of the tactics discussed in the above article....

tony wilson - this one's all about you.....


TheReplacement's picture

I doubt his name is Tony Wilson, more likely Levy Cohen.

radiobomb's picture

or ali bin shitzstirin......

Dewey Cheatum Howe's picture

He is so over the top and tongue in cheek that you can't take what he writes at face value either. Frankly I don't know what his game is and don't care. As anti-semitic as it can be I see it as politically incorrect entertainment. That maybe part of his shtick getting rises out of people who can't discern between tasteless politically incorrect entertainment and flat out hate/racism speech. There is method to his madness not just some brainless racism going on there.

radiobomb's picture

DCH; exactly. I realise other real ZH-ers have long since seen through it, & that's the nice thing about this site....

Doom, gloom, tinfoil headgear, and a logic that counters the NLP & propaganda most sheeple swallow daily.

It's the truth that resonates, and many posters have a sound logic that rings true & is backed by experience in their field-of-expertise.