A new type of online harassment has been spreading across the United States.
Its name: the internet troll.
In a country where internet trolling is common, it has caught the attention of a new generation of journalists.
“There are a lot of people who are scared of the internet, and it is now a big topic of conversation,” said Joanne Schulz, a journalism professor at the University of Michigan.
“And people who have been online for a long time are being bullied and abused.”
“We need to be proactive about getting our communities and individuals who are online aware of the threat,” she said.
But what exactly are trolls?
The term troll is sometimes used interchangeably with fake news, or “alternative facts,” but in the case of the Twitter trolls, the latter is the most common description.
In the United Kingdom, the term troll also refers to people who engage in online abuse and harassment.
The term internet troll is often used interchangeately with fake, or alternative, news, but in Australia, the internet is often referred to as “the internet.”
It’s not the first time Australians have faced online harassment.
In 2014, the Sydney Morning Herald published a story about a man accused of sending death threats to women in the local media industry.
He was later convicted of threatening and harassing a journalist.
A man with the same name as the man convicted in Sydney was also jailed in 2016.
“The Internet is a very dangerous place to be, and we need to understand that,” Schulz said.
“I think that in Australia we have a lot more to learn from this particular type of thing that’s been going on.”
“I’m not a troll, I’m a real journalist.”
Some of the people who know about the man accused in the Australian case are concerned.
“What we’re seeing now is a lot that’s a lot less normal,” said Robyn Lappin, the founder of The Australian Women’s Network, which promotes gender equality and the rights of women.
“A lot of the things that are being posted, they’re not really based in reality, they don’t really look like reality.”
She said some of the messages posted on social media could be seen as a form of trolling.
“We’re not trying to make fun of people, we’re trying to be accurate,” she explained.
“But some of it is just an effort to say to women and girls, ‘we’re not going to listen to you.'”
Some people who use social media are even more concerned.
The Australian government has made it a criminal offence to post “misogynistic” comments online.
But a recent report by the University at Albany found that of the more than 1,500 incidents of hate speech online, only one involved actual violence.
“When you think about that one incident, and you think, that’s not a big deal, and that’s kind of a small number of people posting that, but it’s a big number, it’s kind, it really raises a red flag,” Lappins said.
Schulz is concerned about the rise of trolls, and is urging Australians to be aware of them.
“It is a concern to me that we are having a kind of panic in our society, because people are not saying the words that are on their Facebook walls or Twitter feeds,” she told CBC News.
“They are being told that they have the right to say that, and they are being harassed.”
Schulz says it is important for journalists to be more aware of what their colleagues are posting online.
“In the past, I would think, journalists have done a really good job of saying, ‘I am not a threat, I am not doing anything illegal,'” she said, adding that people should always report anything that they think could be interpreted as harassment.
“Journalists are not supposed to be the bullies,” she added.
“This is something that we have to understand.”
Schultz is a professor at University of California-Irvine’s Journalism Program, and she is also a co-author of a report on online harassment by the Centre for Digital Journalism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.