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Trolling posts on SE sites are not very uncommon, and people often respond in exactly the manner the trolls hope for: outrage/indignation/other similar strong reaction.

I admit I've fallen for a troll question in the past, but I learned from it not to waste my time. Common traits of troll posts are:

  • extreme situations, overly dramatic, sometimes to the point of being outlandish
  • often express heavy bias against one group of people (years ago, we had a series of posts about Islamic women)
  • often are about, or include, sexual issues
  • are often about (previously/current) taboo subjects
  • posted, and troll never returns to check the answer(s) (look at the time of their post and check their activity; usually they post and leave, never to return.)

Recent troll posts:

If the spanking draws blood and leaves bruises? Should I call the police?
If the spanking and grounding is not deserved how do you fix it? (The comments under this post are fairly amusing - given that it's a troll post - and pretty much exactly what the troll hopes for, I imagine.)
My 12-year old daughter all of a sudden says she's trans (Overly dramatic to the point of outlandishness, quasi-sexual assault, about a past taboo subject, posted and OP never returned.) My son is using crack. Should I stop him?

These are far from all of the recent trolling posts.

Some sites prefer to take a troll at their word and try to help them, e.g. IPS. Maybe this is true of Parenting as well? Is there a role for moderators on troll posts? How could they be handled (or should they be handled at all?) Are troll posts bad for a site?

Edited to add: Ironically - so soon after this post - there is another candidate, but that's yet to be determined. Not that such things just don't happen; terrible things happen all the time. It does fit most of the categories, though.

(I sincerely do regret having gained so much rep from a troll post. I now check before answering.)

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As a site grows, I think it becomes harder for a mod to spot troll posts due to the volume of posts - that said, we get to follow the flags, so we rely on a larger number of people flagging.

As you will be well aware, on Parenting we arrive with a certain element of belief, as we want to help folks more if they are in very difficult situations, but the pointers you call out, if a few appear related in one post, raises the alarm.

All I'll say, is please continue to downvote, vote to close, or flag (or all 3) and they will be dealt with.

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  • Thanks for the answer. I don't know, honestly, what the role of a moderator is with regards to troll posts. It's kind of a quandary: are they bad for a site? If so, are there enough users flagging and downvoting? Ideally they would be dealt with by users, but ideal situations are not that common. – anongoodnurse Nov 23 '20 at 3:27
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I often come across questions which I suspect to be made up for someone's amusement. If they're not clearly designed to cause sentimental outbreaks, endless heated discussion or outrage (such as the post about spanking you mentioned), I don't mind answering them anyway. There's another recent one I thought was likely to be a troll question - the one about the two teenage friends being caught naked in bed by mom and here's one that might be real, but I'd actually be relieved if it was a troll.

Most of these questions have fairly obvious answers because of the dramatic and extreme nature of the question (Should I stop my son from smoking crack? Uhm, yes!). I always tell myself that "well, there actually might be people who are faced with this problem - and if they are, then they're probably not very bright because why else would they have to deal with such a dramatic and obvious situation and not know how to handle it- and so they might be happy to see Google finds an answer for them here."

If some fairly immature trolls also have a good time seeing that I'm feeding them, well, why should I care? It might still be helpful. And to be honest, I kinda like assuming these situations might be real for someone and figuring out how I would solve them.

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  • Oh my goodness, I hope none of them are real! – anongoodnurse Apr 30 at 4:16
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    Oops, that came out totally wrong. I didn't mean I hope horrible things are happening to people, it's more of a stretching my imagination thing. Maybe it's comparable to people who like to watch soap operas with hospitals/doctors - you have all this drama and all these relationship problems to watch, but unlike soap operas, you don't actually have to sit there and think "doesn't work like this in the real world" or "they handle this so badly" and "I wouldn't act like that" - you can actually help direct the course of the drama. And you still get to be safe and detached in the real world. – Pascal remembers Monica Apr 30 at 6:07
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    Thanks for the clarification! I think that I may be lacking in imagination, because your explanation makes complete sense and I see your statement differently now. Maybe because I've seen a lot of trauma, as ER docs are wont to do, or just maybe because times are hard enough these days without fake drama. But a good approach on your part! – anongoodnurse Apr 30 at 13:31

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