“Ligue de LOL” Not your typical troll

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The cyber mobbing clique “Ligue de LOL” is a group of French journalists, influencers, and marketers who coordinated their violent cyber mobbing attacks (mostly on women) via their Facebook group

Wait, did I say “not your typical troll?” Is there such a thing as a “typical troll?” A pimpely lonely teenager in the basement?

What picture do you see in your mind when you hear troll? How about “influential, highly educated, left-leaning, progressive journalist”?

Let me tell you about a scandal that currently stirs up a lot of emotions in French.

In 2009, a group of influential digital pioneers founded the mobbing clique “Ligue de LOL.”

They shared links to profiles of people they thought to be embarrassing, stupid – or just too fat. They coordinated targeted attacks, mainly on women.

Last Friday, the French outlet “Libération” confirmed the existence of this cyber mobbing group. Since then, victims come forward and share their experience with digital mobbing and hatred towards women.

How did the group operate? What are the consequences? Who is a part of the cyber mobbing group?

The LOL Ligue is known for a long time in French as a “digital super clique”

At least 35 people were members of the cyber mobbing group. The members include several well-known journalists who made careers at influential French newspapers and magazines. Famous podcasters and digital consultants – including the former community manager of French president Emmanuel Macron – were also part of the boy-club.

Founder of the group, Vincent Glad, has 140,000 followers on Twitter and appears to be well-educated and left-leaning. If you speak French, you can read his rather naive sounding apology pinned to his profile.

The other members of the cyber mobbing group are also very well connected, averaging a follower count of several thousand, mostly tens of thousands of followers.

Many of them were early adopters of Twitter. In the beginning stages, Twitter was a much smaller, much more elite network and featured many journalists, digital pioneers and other people who were convinced that they can change the world through journalism.

“Le Monde” journalist Samuel Laurent describes the beginning of the “Ligue de LOL” in a (French) Facebook post of February 11 HERE

“….a small, elite world of hand-picked journalists, communication experts, developers and a few other people from the digital sector were convinced that they can change the world by journalism…”

Samuel Laurent (loosely translated by me)

Laurent explains that the group didn’t realize how homogeneous it was: young, white, well-educated Parisians.

The “cool kids” of the “LOL Ligue” were on top of the Twitter hierarchy. They could make or break careers. And they knew about their power.

The cyber attacks: how the “LOL Ligue” attacked women and minorites

Vincent Glad who still worked for the “Libération” until the scandal became public, founded the group to “have fun” making fun of others. The men perceived the group as a play field.

On Twitter, Glad now states “I created a monster and lost control of it.” That’s why I described his apology as “naive” earlier on. Someone who is convinced that journalism – which is writing – can change the world is surprised that coordinated attacks with written words break people?

The group not only insulted feminist authors, journalists and female YouTubers in a flash-mob-like manner, but they also created photo montages were they added the faces of people “they had fun making fun of” to pornographic GIFs.

I love a good prank. Having experienced cyber stalking and the abuse of personal information myself, I find it hard to see how creating fake porn pictures is funny.

Because they were so well connected, the “LOL Ligue” was able to focus hatred and attention to specific accounts and made sure that these accounts were flooded with harmful and hateful messages.

“I felt as if I was running from a sniper”, one of the victims describes the horror of being targeted by the Ligue de LOL.

Several women left Twitter because they could not deal with the harrassment and hatred any longer.

The “LOL Ligue” also terrorized their victims with phone calls. For instance, they called a victim and offered her an anchor job – and published a recording of the phone call online.

They used the name and real phone number of a female YouTuber to post a fake add on Craigslist. Signed by “Madame fat.”

Many of the members of the group are now all apologetic like “Oh, we didn’t we would hurt someone’s feelings.” Suddenly, everyone hardly realized what was going on.

Obviously, one can be the community manager for the French president and assume it’s not hurtful to create fake porn pictures and coordinate harassment attacks.

Some members used fake accounts for their attacks, while others used their private accounts. But the victims were too afraid to speak up. After all, these people are influential. It only became a public scandal when the “Libération” followed up on cues that something was off with this group.

It appears that some members who used their private profiles are now trying to hide traces. This one – the ex-community manager of the French president, deleted about 390 Tweets on Sunday.

The consequences

For some of the group members, the cyber mobbing will finally have consequences. “Libération” started an internal investigation and fired group founder Vincent Glad. Online editor-in-chief Alexandre Hervaud, was sent on leave for the duration of the investigation.

Podcast company Nouvelles Écoutes fired podcaster Guilhem Malissen. “Usbek & Rica” fired Guillaume Ledit.

PR firm Publicis Consultants fired Renaud Loubert-Aledo.

The initiative “SOS Racisme” demands an official investigation. The “Ligue de LOL” targeted mainly women but also some black people and people from the LGBT community.

This happened in France. We all know that cyber mobbing and organized cyber mobbing of “boy clubs” are not problems exclusive to France.

Having influence and money is a test of character many fail.

I’m all about empathy and forgiveness. But what I feel when I try to understand the agenda of emotions of a group who systematically used their power to target “weaker” individuals is not pretty.

We all took a prank too far in the heat of the moment. But over weeks? Months?

These were not pimplely teenagers venting off some frustration in the basement of their houses. These are influential, highly-educated and powerful people who knew about the destructive power of their words and actions. Wasn’t their vision to “change the world with journalism”?

Perhaps a better vision is to change the world with empathy and kindness.