More than 1 in 4 Americans -- 28 percent, to be exact -- admit to Internet "trolling," according to an online survey conducted by research firm YouGov. Trolling is defined as "malicious online activity" directed at a stranger. Trolls like to argue, harass, or sow discord just because they like the reaction it provokes.
Trolls aren't well regarded in the online community, and in fact, contribute to an overall decline in the quality of online discussion and debate. It got so bad on the website for the magazine Popular Science that the editors decided to turn off the ability to comment on articles last year. In so doing, Popular Science referred to a study showing that "uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself" -- meaning that trolls debating an article in bad faith actually caused readers to disbelieve something that was true.
OK, so trolling is bad for debate. But can it carry legal consequences?