Do not feed social media trolls, road safety board told

Guidelines advise RSA board members to treat negative commenters like ‘an angry mob’

Treat social media trolls and "negative commenters" the same way you would an "angry mob", the Road Safety Authority told its board members.

In guidelines drawn up on how to deal with negative social media commentary board members were told to avoid becoming involved in lengthy online spats.

“You don’t have to reply to everything. If the comment is clearly an attack or an effort to pick a fight, let it go,” state the guidelines.

“Act as if you are responding to an angry mob: being right might not be the end goal,” the guidance said.

The guidelines were circulated to the road safety organisation’s board last September and released to The Irish Times under the Freedom of Information Act.

Internet trolls, a name given to those who (often anonymously) post inflammatory or aggressive comments on social media, should not be responded to negatively, noted the guidelines.

If board members found themselves at the centre of a social media pile-on or “under attack by trolls”, they were advised to log offline for several hours. The guidelines said persistently problematic accounts should be muted rather than blocked, and would then no longer appear on their social media feed.

“Eventually they will move onto the next perceived issue and they will not have the satisfaction of you blocking them – something that they will happily screenshot and tweet to their followers,” stated the document.

The authority’s board was advised to take screenshots of individuals posting “negative or controversial comments”, to keep a record of the post in case the issue “escalates to a more serious matter”.

Advice to keep it cool

Board members were advised to “keep it cool” and bear in mind a troll or offended customer was often “trying to get an emotional reaction”, the document stated.

The guidelines advised against deleting posts on Twitter if they attracted controversy. "If you do delete a tweet it will almost certainly have been screen grabbed by someone on the internet. It will only aggravate the commenter, or move the conversation elsewhere," states the guidelines.

“Deleting things on the internet is an illusion anyway, and will bring into question your integrity to not only the complainer, but all your followers,” it said.

“Once the mob have moved on to the next issue, consider were there any individuals who might be worth engaging with offline, in a calmer setting,” who could be contacted by phone or email, the guidelines noted.