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According to Stefan Krappitz, there’s a distinct difference between trolling and other activity online, and he should know—he wrote the book on trolling. Krappitz says, “Trolling is the act of disrupting people for personal amusement or the amusement of many.” More specifically, Krappitz states that trolls aren’t simply seeking laugh-out-loud moments—aka “LOLs”—but rather, “lulz,” which carries the connotation of schadenfreude, or the enjoyment of the suffering of someone else. Trolls like to laugh at the expense of others. Here are some of the longest, largest and biggest trolls in history.
5 The Oatmeal v. FunnyJunk
In 2012, online comic The Oatmeal got into a legal dispute with the owner of the website FunnyJunk.com. Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal said several of his comics appeared on the FunnyJunk website without attribution, so he asked that they be removed. In response, Charles Carreon of FunnyJunk threatened to sue Inman if he wasn’t paid $20,000. In response, Inman started “Operation Bearlove Good, Cancer Bad” with two goals: raising $20,000 for charity and sending a picture of that money to Carreon, along with an image of his mom getting romantic with a Kodiak bear. So Carreon sued to keep Inman from raising the money, claiming that if he pulled it out in cash, Inman would be stealing from the charities. So Inman never touched the over $200,000 that was raised for charity. Instead, he sent it to the National Wildlife Federation and the American Cancer Society, and pulled out his own money in cash to photograph and send to Carreon. For all of this, Carreon received a lovely picture of his mom with a bear and an image of cash that he would never have.
4 Trolling Classified Ads
The website Don’t Even Reply contains posts based on the site author’s trolling of Craigslist ads. The content doesn’t come out quickly because, according to John Lindsay — the pseudonym used by the author—only about 10 percent of the people he contacts reply, and of those, not all of them are funny. But when he does get someone, he keeps poking at them, such as the time when he responded to an ad asking for help moving pretending to be a quadriplegic, or the time he “misunderstood” the color description of a microwave to indicate racial segregation. The emails in response grow increasingly frustrated as Lindsay continues to up the ante, and hilarity ensues.
In October 2012, Adrian Chen of Gawker outed the real name of “The Biggest Troll on the Web.” The man posting to the website Reddit under the name Violentacrez was in fact Michael Brutsch, a husband, father and programmer from Texas. Online, Violentacrez trolled the message boards of Reddit by posting inflammatory, offensive and disgusting things just to get people angry. Once people were angry and posting in response, he would stand behind the principles of free speech and taunt them for their narrow-mindedness. Chen said of Violentacrez, “A troll exploits social dynamics like computer hackers exploit security loopholes, and Violentacrez calmly exploited the Reddit hive mind’s powerful outrage machine and free speech values at the same time.” If you really want to be offended, you could go on to Reddit and look up some of the stuff that Violentacrez posted, but then you’d be offended — so how would that help anyone? After being outed, Brutsch stopped posting under the Violentacrez name. Who knows where he is now.
2 Andy Kaufman’s Feud with Jerry Lawler
Comedian Andy Kaufman loved to mess with people, including women and professional wrestlers. He developed a friendship with Jerry “The King” Lawler, and together they concocted an elaborate feud that played out on national television and in wrestling rings around the country. The most famous and shocking incident was their staged fight on “Late Night with David Letterman” July 29, 1982. Lawler didn’t let on that it was all a joke until 10 years after Kaufman died. Of course, Kaufman also joked about faking his own death, and photos of someone who looks surprisingly like Kaufman appeared in May 2013. The world may never know.
The hacking group Anonymous started out as a trolling group. They gather together to pull off trolls that would be impossible for one person to accomplish. They’ve gamed the “Time” magazine poll for person of the year to put the owner of a trolling website—4chan—at the top of the list, they’ve flooded YouTube with pornographic clips faster than the moderators could respond and they’ve hacked numerous websites to display messages or images. Some of the Anonymous collective think they are doing just work for the cause of free speech, but others just want to mess with people. In essence, the idea of Anonymous itself is a giant, long-lived troll poking fun at everyone not inside the group.