What is Concern Trolling?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 29 December 2016
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Concern trolling is a form of Internet trolling in which someone enters a discussion with claims that he or she supports the view of the discussion, but has concerns. In fact, the concern troll is opposed to the view of the discussion, and he or she uses concern trolling to sow doubt and dissent in the community of commenters or posters. Although this practice originated on the Internet, it has since spread to the real world as well, with concern trolls popping up in a variety of places from network television to op-ed columns.

Artful concern trolling involves developing a believable persona as a supporter of a cause who has legitimate concerns. In an example of concern trolling, a group of people might be having a political discussion on a website about a candidate they support. The concern troll would log on and say “I'm concerned that this candidate might not be strong enough to beat the opposition,” or “I'm worried that the candidate's history in the legislature might be a problem in the election.”


Once a concern troll has sowed dissent or discord, often he or she can sit back and let the other commenters do the rest of the work. When a concern troll has done the job correctly, the discussion will split, factions will emerge, and support for the cause will have eroded. Concern trolling can also be highly distracting, as people band together to oppose the concern troll, rather than discussing serious issues, including valid concerns which should be addressed.

Depending on the context, a concern troll may use a sockpuppet, a false account which conceals his or her real identity. In some particularly infamous cases, members of political campaigns have trolled the opposition using sockpuppet accounts with the goal of undermining grassroots support. When these cases are exposed, it can be quite embarrassing, as trolling is generally viewed as an underhanded and often questionable tactic.

Many people think that the best thing to do with Internet trolls is to ignore them. By refusing to give them anything to feed on, users can continue their discussion and stay focused on the issues they want to talk about. However, it can be tricky to distinguish a concern troll from a devil's advocate or someone who genuinely supports the cause, but does have worries. Tip-offs that someone is a concern troll include a recent registration date, for sites that require registration to post, along with minimal personal details in a user account. Concern trolling also tends to come from people with no commenting or posting history, so if a brand-new user shows up and starts raising doubts, it may be a concern troll.


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Post 13

Since I have often voiced my honest opinion that I want Sanders as President, but also am aware of the need to get actual control

of the U.S. Supreme Court, so for that reason alone we have to get a Democrat in office, as unpalatable as it may be!

The list of even one vote on the Court will be the end for us. You think Citizens United is bad, my lord what will be facing!

Oh, and I have been called a troll for thinking maybe a plan B might might be necessary!

So am I a "concern Troll", because I volunteer and donate to Senator Sanders!

Post 12

Labeling someone with genuine concerns as a troll happens more often than not now. All this tactic has done is silence dissent and polarize opinions even more when a person who kind of supports one thing but has a concern gets ignored or ridiculed and becomes alienated from that group and ends up taking the polar opposite position since they think their original position's side is hostile.

Post 7

Thanks for that definition; it has become all too obvious that these trolls are entering discussions only to subvert open discussion. Awareness is definitely the key!

Post 4

Don't you think that concern trolling can happen in non Internet situations too? I know a few people who will make this kind of comment, mostly they are trying to cause trouble amongst a community or friends.

The tell tale sign of this for me is when they can't move on from their 'concerns', no matter how many opinions or ideas are offered to them.

Post 3

@angelBraids - I hear you! I was aware of the trolls out there but honestly thought they were just sad people who lacked social skills! It seems so much worse that a concern troll is planning to sabotage a worthy cause or discussion.

Sometimes it's good to have someone throw a controversial comment or opinion out there of course. It would be unrealistic to expect everyone to have the same perspectives on things.

Post 2

This is a great definition of a concern troll, and I hope more people become aware of this nuisance on public forums. I've seen this happen a few times on sites I like to visit, it's annoying and sometimes quite upsetting.

Post 1

I'm concerned that this definition of concern trolling may undermine the cause. --Eric B.

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