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How to Handle Trolls and Negative Comments in Your Online Community

Blog / Jun 16, 2023

How to Handle Trolls and Negative Comments in Your Online Community

Aisha Jones
Social Media Strategist & Journalist

Welcome to the world of online communities, where interactions are often anonymous and comments can be unfiltered. While building an online community can be a rewarding experience, it can also come with its share of trolls and negative comments. Trolls are people who intentionally provoke others through rude, offensive, or disruptive behavior.

Negative comments, on the other hand, can be critical or hurtful to the community or individuals in it. In this article, we will discuss how to understand and address trolls and negative comments in your online community.

Understanding Trolls and Negative Comments

Defining Trolls and Their Behavior

Trolls are individuals who deliberately post comments or messages online with the intention of provoking a response or disrupting a conversation. They come in many forms, and their behavior can range from mildly annoying to downright abusive. Some trolls may be motivated by a desire for attention, while others may have more malicious intentions.

Common troll behavior includes making personal attacks, posting off-topic comments, engaging in arguments, and using vulgar or inflammatory language.

Trolls may also use multiple accounts to create the illusion of widespread support or to evade bans or blocks. It’s important to recognize that trolls thrive on attention, so responding to their comments or engaging in arguments can often make the situation worse.

If you encounter a troll in your community, it’s important to remain calm and not take their comments personally.

You can also consider blocking or banning them from your platform if their behavior is particularly disruptive or harmful.

The Impact of Negative Comments on Your Community

Negative comments can have a significant impact on your community, both in the short-term and the long-term. They can discourage participation, lower morale, and damage your brand or reputation.

Negative comments can also create a toxic environment that makes it difficult for members to communicate and share their ideas.

It’s important to establish guidelines and standards for behavior to ensure that your community remains a safe and inclusive space. This can include rules around respectful communication, constructive criticism, and appropriate language. By setting clear expectations for behavior, you can help prevent negative comments and create a positive and supportive community.

It’s also important to address negative comments when they do arise. This can involve responding to the comment directly, or reaching out to the individual privately to address their concerns. By addressing negative comments in a constructive and respectful way, you can help prevent them from escalating and creating further disruption in your community.

Overall, understanding trolls and negative comments is an important part of managing any online community. By recognizing the signs of troll behavior and establishing clear guidelines for behavior, you can help create a positive and supportive environment for all members.

Establishing Community Guidelines

Creating a positive and safe online community is essential for the success of any website or social media platform. It’s important to establish clear guidelines for behavior to manage trolls and negative comments. By setting expectations and consequences for violating those expectations, you can help create a culture of respect and support.

Setting Clear Expectations for Behavior

When creating guidelines for behavior, it’s important to be specific and concise. Avoid using vague language or broad statements that could be interpreted in different ways. Instead, provide clear rules for posting content, commenting, and behavior in online discussions. This can help prevent confusion and misunderstandings that could lead to negative comments or trolling.

It’s also helpful to create a code of conduct that outlines the values and expectations for all community members. This can include guidelines for respecting diversity, avoiding hate speech, and promoting constructive dialogue. By establishing a clear set of values and expectations, you can help create a community that is welcoming and inclusive for all members.

Encouraging Positive Interactions

In addition to setting clear guidelines, it’s important to encourage positive interactions within the community. This can help create a culture of respect and support, which can reduce the likelihood of negative comments and discourage troll behavior. Some ways to encourage positive interactions include:

  • Highlighting success stories: By sharing stories of community members who have had positive experiences, you can help inspire others to engage in positive behavior.
  • Fostering a sense of community: Encourage members to share their experiences and perspectives, and create opportunities for members to connect with each other.
  • Providing opportunities for feedback and collaboration: Allow members to provide feedback on the community and its guidelines, and create opportunities for members to collaborate on projects or initiatives.

Consequences for Violating Guidelines

Even with clear guidelines and a positive culture, there may still be members who violate the rules. It’s important to have a system of consequences in place to discourage negative behavior and protect the community. Consequences could include:

  • Warning: A warning can be a helpful way to remind members of the guidelines and give them an opportunity to correct their behavior.
  • Blocking: If a member continues to violate the guidelines after a warning, blocking their account can help prevent further negative behavior.
  • Banning: In severe cases, banning a member from the community may be necessary to protect the safety and well-being of other members.

Consistently enforcing consequences can help deter negative behavior and create a safer online community for all members.

Identifying and Addressing Trolls

Online communities can be a great place to share ideas, connect with others, and have meaningful conversations. Unfortunately, there are also individuals who seek to disrupt these communities through negative behavior, often referred to as “trolling.” In this article, we’ll discuss some strategies for identifying and addressing trolls in your online community.

Recognizing Common Troll Tactics

Recognizing common troll tactics is crucial in addressing negative behavior. One common tactic is personal attacks, where the troll targets an individual with insults or derogatory comments.

Another tactic is posting off-topic comments, which can derail conversations and distract from the topic at hand. Trolls may also engage in arguments, often with the goal of provoking an emotional response from others.

It’s important to remember that not all negative behavior is trolling. Sometimes, individuals may simply have a difference of opinion or may not understand the community guidelines. However, if you notice a pattern of negative behavior from an individual, it may be a sign of trolling.

Responding to Trolls and Negative Comments

It’s essential to have a plan in place for responding to trolls and negative comments. One approach is to ignore the comments and not engage with the troll. This can be effective in some cases, as trolls often thrive on attention and may lose interest if they don’t receive a response.

Another approach is to respond with a calm and rational voice that sets the tone for the community. When responding, try to address the issue and not the person who posted the negative comment. This can help diffuse the situation and prevent it from escalating.

It’s also important to remember that responding to trolls can be emotionally draining. If you find yourself becoming upset or angry, it may be best to step away from the conversation and take a break.

When to Ban or Block Users

In some cases, banning or blocking users may be necessary to maintain a positive and safe online community. This could include users who repeatedly violate guidelines or engage in abusive behavior.

It’s important to have a clear policy in place for banning or blocking users and to explain the decision to the community to prevent confusion or backlash.

However, banning or blocking should not be the first course of action. Before taking these steps, try to address the behavior with the individual and provide them with an opportunity to change their behavior. If the behavior continues, then it may be necessary to take more drastic action.

In conclusion, identifying and addressing trolls is an important part of maintaining a positive and safe online community. By recognizing common troll tactics, having a plan for responding to negative behavior, and knowing when to ban or block users, you can help create a welcoming and supportive environment for all members of your community.

Supporting and Empowering Your Community Members

Building a strong and supportive community is essential for creating a positive online space.

As a community manager, it’s important to take steps to empower and support your members. Here are some additional ways to support and empower your community members:

Encouraging Open Communication and Reporting

Creating an environment that encourages open communication and reporting is crucial for maintaining a safe and inclusive community. When members feel comfortable speaking up about negative behavior, it becomes easier to identify and address issues before they escalate.

To encourage open communication, consider creating a dedicated channel or forum where members can report negative behavior or ask for help. Make sure this reporting system is easy to use and that members know how to access it. You can also encourage members to speak up by acknowledging and thanking them for reporting negative behavior.

Providing Resources for Dealing with Trolls

Trolls and negative comments can be a major challenge for online communities. Providing resources and support for dealing with trolls can help members feel empowered and less vulnerable.

Consider creating a set of guidelines for dealing with negative comments and behavior. These guidelines should include steps for reporting negative behavior, as well as tips for responding to trolls in a constructive way. You can also provide resources for members who are experiencing harassment or abuse, such as links to support groups or hotlines.

It’s also important to create a culture of support within your community. Encourage members to reach out to each other for help and support, and make sure they know that they can come to you if they need assistance.

Celebrating Positive Contributions and Successes

Celebrating positive contributions and successes is a great way to create a positive and supportive community. When members feel appreciated and valued, they are more likely to continue contributing to the community.

Consider highlighting positive comments or contributions on a regular basis. You can also create a system for recognizing members who have made significant contributions to the community, such as a “member of the month” award.

Finally, make sure you are acknowledging and celebrating the achievements of your community as a whole. Share milestones and successes with your members, and encourage them to celebrate each other’s accomplishments.

By taking these steps to support and empower your community members, you can create a positive and inclusive online space where everyone feels valued and supported.


Managing trolls and negative comments in your online community can be challenging, but it’s not impossible.

By establishing clear guidelines, encouraging positive interactions, identifying and addressing trolls, and supporting and empowering your community members, you can create a positive and supportive online community.

Remember, it’s important to stay calm, rational, and consistent when managing negative behavior, and to focus on creating a positive culture that values and supports all members.