If you've been following my blog, you may have noticed my "Don't Feed The Trolls!" series. However, after some pondering and expert advice, I'd decided to clarify my terminology a bit.
Originally, I was using "troll" to describe anything that lurked in the dark underbellies of the internet. However, the term "troll" really only applies to a specific type of behavior. I've decided, for future posts, to break down the things that live in internet slime like this:
Trolls: Individuals and organizations who intentionally create chaos and dissension online.
Trolling behavior ranges from antagonistic comments on online posts to making personal attacks to people. Sometimes organizations will troll for political purposes. Trolls are distinct from scammers because don't always have a chance to make money, and they don't always engage criminal behavior or scams. At best, they're just buttheads. At worst, they are making personal threats against real people and intentionally manipulating situations to create conflicts.
Scammers: Individuals and organizations who manipulate and abuse others for financial or material gain.
In the early days of the internet, these scams started out as the token Nigerian Prince who needed help wiring an exorbitant amount of money, therefore requiring all your personal information. These email "phishing" scams are still active today, but they've migrated to social media (please see my post on "Impostor Scams" for an example). Phishing is only one type of scam they try to pull. We can (and will) talk about Like Farming, impersonating family members, identity theft, fake contests, stealing photo of people, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. Internet scammers can be criminals, but they're not easy to track down. However, there's proactive measures you can take to avoid them.
Predators: Individuals and organizations who manipulate others online, intending to do them harm.
This is the one that makes our stomachs sink when we think about it. We're talking child abuse, human trafficking, stalking, spreading pornography, and the things that lurk in the darkest parts of the internet. However, even if we don't want to dwell there, it's essential to understand their strategies so we can, first, protect ourselves and the kids in our lives, and second, to recognize red flags that may enable us to help stop a tragic event from happening.