When someone comes by that wants to cause problems, it's easy to get caught up in fixing those problems and let yourself get sucked in to where you start taking things personally. However, sometimes that's exactly what the vandal or troll wants.

This page will offer advice on how to deal with these kinds of situations.

Quick definitions

Here's a brief definition of each:

  • Vandal: wants to harm the wiki.
  • Troll: wants to provoke you and get you upset.
  • Spammer: wants to sell you something and they don't care where they post the advertisement.
    • Some people who post the same kinds of things over and over again are also spammers.

There's much more thorough definitions, but those will be sufficient for this page. Most of the information here will be about vandals and trolls.

Reasons why people vandalize and are trolls

At first glance, it's tempting to ask, "Why would anyone want to hurt this place?" It's very much like asking, "Why would anyone steal?", or hurt someone, or lie, or any of the other questions that you might ask when someone does something wrong.

But, it doesn't really do any good to ask the vandal/troll those kinds of questions. You probably will not get an answer, and sometimes simply asking the question gives the vandal/troll what they want.

Here are some of the reasons vandals and trolls do what they do:

  • They are looking for attention.
  • It's fun for them.
  • They want an ego boost.
  • They enjoy making people upset.
  • They want to shock people.
  • It gives them a feeling of power or being in control.
  • They want revenge or to punish others for something that happened on the wiki. This can be for something as small as you undid an edit they made. ("If I can't do what I want, I'll make sure no one else can use the wiki, either.")
  • They would rather destroy something than work to build it.

Vandalism/trolling in the real world

Very few people walk down a street, go over to a random person, begin screaming obscenities in their face, then walk away. Very few people think, "That looks like a person I can make fun of. I'm going to be a jerk to him, then I am going to go over to this corner and watch him get mad at what I did."

And yet, that's what vandals and trolls do online. They appear at random, make some noise and then are gone. They feel it's okay to behave like this online even when they would not do it in person. After you fix what they did, you may never hear from them again.

Returning vandals/trolls

There will always be people that want to cause problems and that is their only reason for visiting a wiki. Being blocked doesn't deter them. They find a way to come back.

A lot of times it will be obvious that they came back because the IP addresses or account names will be similar. For these people, you can almost hear them thinking, "I don't care what I'm doing is wrong. I'm going to keep doing it, and I'm going to make sure people know it's me that's doing it."

Other vandals and trolls make more of an effort to hide what they are doing. The IP addresses and user names will not have anything in common.

In either case, there is something in common: the edits they make. It is very hard for people to completely change their behavior and manners, so the more they vandalize and post troll comments, the easier it becomes to see patterns in their edits. Some of the patterns are immediately apparent, such as names or phrases they repeatedly use. Other patterns take a little longer to figure out, such as a person who adds birth and years for a character and later on you see that the dates are changing each time.

It can be annoying when these kinds of people keep coming back, but we have a few ways of handling them. First, we have a team of people that review all the edits being made and have the ability to fix them. They are helped out by people like you who also spot problems and use the Undo button to change the edit back. Second, we can contact Wikia when a person keeps being a problem. They can check their system and take action globally across many wikis, such as get a report of all edits made by an IP address or account, then issue a block or disable the account if it's warranted.

How you should react

A strange game. The only winning move is not to play.

The simplest answer for how you should react is: don't react.

When you get upset by what they do, they win. Fixing problems should never be a competition, but for some vandals and trolls, it actually is a game to them to cause problems.

The best way to handle the problems is to deal with it in an impartial or matter-of-fact manner. Leave your personal feelings and personal comments out of the situation. This can be hard to do, especially if you're on the receiving end of an attack, but the less you give them in the way of a reaction, the less they get out of it. Additionally, if you make a big deal out of what is happening, such as leaving personal comments in the summary, other people may get curious about what is going on and fall into the trap of reacting to the vandalism/troll comments.

For some, if they don't see that they're getting much of a reaction to what they're doing, they don't get any satisfaction out of it, they get bored, or it stops being fun for them. In these cases, they may give up what they're doing or will go to some other wiki to see if they can get a new audience there.

Steps to take

Steps you should take when fixing vandalism or trollish edits:

  • Don't react. Be objective/matter-of-fact.
  • Reference policies when appropriate.
  • Save yourself the trouble. Don't bother with "why are you doing this?" messages.
    • Some wouldn't bother reading the message anyway.
    • Other vandals and trolls want a reaction.
    • A lot of spam is automated, so no person would be around to read the message.
  • Leave a message for an admin if you need some assistance cleaning things up, such as deleting pages or alerting them to a user that should be blocked.
    • Don't leave Chicken Little messages ("the vandal is back and they're going to ruin the wiki", etc.)

An easy way to think of this is "If I was talking to them in person, would I be talking coolly and calmly? Or would I be panicking, getting angry, getting frustated?" If you're not calm and collected, you're letting the vandal or troll get to you. Take a step back, wait a bit and realize that's what a lot of them want. Then take another look to see if there's a more objective way of dealing with them.

Actually talking to the vandal/troll

In general, only leave official notices on their Talk page, in the same manner listed in the "Steps to take" section above. Trying to help them understand what they did was wrong oftentimes backfire because it shows them you are reacting to what they did. Remember, many vandals and trolls want attention and will take whatever you give them in any form you give them, so the less you interact with them, the better.

Impact of vandalism/edits by trolls

Don't Panic.

The way a wiki is set up, there is basically nothing that can't be fixed. We can undo edits, we can go back to an earlier version of the page, we can delete and undelete pages, and we can delete and undelete pictures. And if there happens to be something an administrator on the wiki can't fix, we can ask for help from Wikia. Their staff members can dig deeper into the workings of a wiki and fix/prevent problems more thoroughly.

So what it comes down to is, no matter what the problem is, it's only going to be a problem for a short while. Sometimes it's spotted immediately and other times it's a few hours. It just depends on how busy the wiki is, and for the more advanced cleanup, when the next time an admin logs in.

The problem may not be pleasant or nice to look at until it is fixed, but it will be fixed. While it's being fixed, don't panic and don't react to what is going on.

When dealing with a returning vandal or troll, keep in mind that it really is just a short-term problem. Most of the time, they are only going to be around for a few weeks or months. They just don't have the dedication to be a long-term vandal/troll. Block them enough times and fix their vandalism without making personal comments, and they will go away because they are not getting the attention and reaction they want.

For the few that stick around longer than this, we can get Wikia staff to help us. By this time, the vandal or troll has provided enough evidence that helps Wikia shut them down even faster and more thoroughly than we can. You can think of it as "give 'em enough rope and they'll hang themselves", but the reality is closer to them bringing their own rope and it catches up to them.


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