Troll Hunter: Inside the TV show about hunting the internet's biggest jerks


For MIT Technology Review, Adrian Chen does a ride-along with Swedish journalist Robert Aschberg, who hunts down Internet trolls and shames them on television.

On one day, the pseudonymous bully they tracked down was revealed to be "a quiet, skinny man in his 30s, wearing a hoodie and a dirty baseball cap." Aschberg's team linked this man to a months-long harassment campaign against a teen girl born with a shrunken hand.

The journalists and researchers Chen profiles make a living by "wading into ugly corners of the Internet to expose racists, creeps, and hypocrites." But do these hunters resemble the hunted?

This was the first time Aschberg had encountered an outright denial since he had started exposing Internet trolls on his television show Trolljägarna (Troll Hunter). Usually he just shoots them his signature glare—honed over decades as a muckraking TV journalist and famous for its ability to bore right through sex creeps, stalkers, and corrupt politicians—and they spill their guts. But the glare had met its match. After 10 minutes of fruitless back and forth on the patio, Aschberg ended the interview. "Some advice from someone who's been around for a while," he said wearily. "Lay low on the Internet with this sort of stuff." The man still shook his head: "But I haven't done any of that."

"He's a pathological liar," Aschberg grumbled in the car afterward. But he wasn't particularly concerned. The goal of Troll Hunter is not to rid the Internet of every troll. "The agenda is to raise hell about all the hate on the Net," he says. "To start a discussion." Back at the Troll Hunter office, a whiteboard organized Aschberg's agenda. Dossiers on other trolls were tacked up in two rows: a pair of teens who anonymously slander their high school classmates on Instagram, a politician who runs a racist website, a male law student who stole the identity of a young woman to entice another man into an online relationship. In a sign of the issue's resonance in Sweden, a pithy neologism has been coined to encompass all these forms of online nastiness: näthat ("Net hate"). Troll Hunter, which has become a minor hit for its brash tackling of näthat, is currently filming its second season.

"The Troll Hunters" [MIT Techonology Review]