Whitney Phillips hunts trolls. For the past four years she's watched them on forums and Facebook, studied patterns in their behavior, chatted online with a few, and even met a small handful.
It's no small feat. These are tricksters prone to digital disruption and online hijinks for all kinds of reasons or none at all. And their dependence on anonymity makes them harder to track down than their Grimm namesakes. "You can't just walk up to a troll and have a heart-to-heart," Phillips says. But over the years, she's built up relationships with trolls of all stripes and gotten as close as anyone to understanding what makes their tribe tick.