Three Billy Goats Gruff

Trolls in cyberspace have been aptly named. Trolls are ugly, greedy, hide in waiting for their victim and demand to be feed. While trolling is a specific activity, it is agreed that any online abuse is abhorrent. Trolls have malicious intent and interpret any “reaction as validation to continue their activities” (Bergstrom 2100). We are urged ‘do not feed the trolls!’

Ugly Internet Troll (Artist: Ashva – Image courtesy Vector Stock)

Serious online conflict can be flaming (personal attacks), doxing (disclosing private identifying details), cyber-bullying (intense, targeted, one-way abuse), cyber-hating (comments inciting hate) and cyberstalking (following online with intent to harm), or actually any of the ugly behaviours found systemically within humanity. As Couros says, online and offline spaces have merged into an augmented reality, and if you want to understand teen culture you must understand that social media is real life (Couros 2015). “Social media has not altered the dynamics of bullying, but made it visible to more people” (boyd 2014). Boyd proposes teens have more understanding of the imprecise definitions in language around drama, teasing, pranking, punking, bullying, and harassment. She says evil people who torment for fun are sociopaths, but teens know “most bullies react aggressively because they’re struggling with serious issues of their own” (boyd 2014).

Axel Couros, TEDTalk, ‘Identity in a Digital World’

Grievous problems arise when the distinctions between behaviours collapse and make legally dealing with cyberviolence difficult. How do we stop bullying? Governing online behaviour is impractical and nearly impossible with the speed of internet changes, but having a cyber-safety ombudsman as a point-of-call before police intervention is a likely necessity. Currently the eSafety Commission is a clumsy process, but some form of public safety-net is clearly needed as normal societal structures have been removed in social media interaction. The Government eSafety website just tips the iceberg. While it has good intentions, it is about as useful as an AVO in keeping people safe.

Amidst the debate for racial vilification laws, Brandis says “In a free country, people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive, insulting or bigoted” (Collins 2014). We don’t have to like it, but as a society we defend the right to another’s freedom of speech. The question is how to legislate online behaviour that aligns with the constitutional law.

While Facebook’s answer seems to be top-down intervention as it attempts cybersecurity through automated systems removing abusive links and algorithmic censorship, McCosker has a completely different view of these codes of conduct. In analysing the notion of digital citizenship, he proposes the relative lack of constraints, provocation, and conflict as being productive elements of social media spaces. He implies that public engagement with diverse opinions are the democratic processes of becoming citizens (McCosker 2014). Without challenges there is no growth. We must learn how to disagree and co-exist.

“I’m your Sister” Cartoon by Bil Keane

Despite two decades of practice, we are still social media apprentices. The Three Billy Goats had a strategy. Notwithstanding zero-tolerance for life-threatening vitriolic practices, we need to find instructional strategies for young and old alike to form online identities that allows scope for reactive, ‘deviant’ or ‘aberrant’ participation.

MDA2009 Assignment 1B Trolling and Social Media Conflict


Australian Government, eSafety Commissioner, viewed 3 May 2020, <; <;

Beckett, J 2017, “The Media Dangerously Misuses the word Trolling”, The Conversation, viewed 3 May 2020, <;

Bergstrom, K 2011, ‘“Don’t Feed the Troll”: Shutting down the debate about community expectations on’, First Monday vol. 16, no. 8, viewed 2 May 2020, <;.

Carrick, D 2014, “Can a cyber-bullying commissioner protect our kids?”, Law Report, ABS, viewed 3 May 2020, <;

Collins, B 2014, “TRANSCRIPT: George Brandis Said Much More Than ‘People Have A Right To Be Bigoted’“, Business Insider Australia, viewed 3 May 2020, <;

Couros, A 2015, “Identity in a Digital World”, TEDTalk, viewed 3 May 2020, <;

Koetsier, J 2020, “Facebook Deleting Coronavirus Posts, Leading To Charges Of Censorship”, Forbes,  viewed 3 May 2020, <;

McCosker, A 2014, ‘Trolling as provocation: YouTube’s agonistic publics’, Convergence, 20(2), pp. 201–217, viewed 3 May 2020, <;

Pyle, K 2015, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff”, Storyberries, viewed 3 May 2020, <;


Ashva, Ugly Internet Troll, free download 3 May 2020,  <;

Keane, B and J, 2011, King Features Syndicate, viewed 2 May 2020, <;

One thought on “Three Billy Goats Gruff

  1. Hi Wendy! I enjoyed reading your post and the Three Billy Goats Gruff analogy! I had never heard this quote before “In a free country, people do have rights to say things that other people find offensive, insulting or bigoted” (Collins 2014). It shocked me to be honest, I understand freedom of speech is valid but in the context of trolling and cyber bullying it is slightly unbelievable. This lead to me doing some searching and finding this video – .


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