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Flaming, also known as bashing, is Internet slang for the act of posing hateful comments on a piece of media in an attempt to degrade, anger, or discredit another user. Often times, the Internet slang contains some sort of profanity. The user who deliberately posts these comments in order to elicit some sort of emotional response from the victim is referred to as a flamer. A popular viral video produced by College Humor called "We didn't start the flame war" puts a humorous spin on internet "flaming". Flaming, however, is a form of internet bullying that has a substantive impact to its targets. The psychological effects on a person subject to flaming raises ethical questions of whether flaming should be viewed as a form of hazing, internet initiation, or a crime punishable by justice systems. Flaming is not to be confused with trolling, although both are similar attacks in nature.

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Types of Flaming

Like cyberbullying, there are several types of flaming and activities regarding flaming[1]. Flaming most commonly occurs on Internet forums, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Usenet, by email and often times over video game system chats. Most topics of flaming include discussing controversial real-world topics such as politics, religion and philosophy which often times can polarize different groups of people eliciting a debate.

Flame War


Flame war is a term used to describe a back-and-forth fight between two different users in the comments section of a social media post. Often times, flame wars begin when a user is trolling, or posting controversial comments for the purpose of entertainment, and a user or moderator attempts to reprimand them for their inappropriate comments or posts. Flame wars have the potential to escalate, as one side of the argument is instigated for the purpose of provoking the other users. Flame wars can engulf entire comment threads and occasionally entire blogs, which is why most moderators immediately delete all posts from trolls, and remove the posting privileges of those engaging in flame wars. Moderators have also been known to close threads in order to prevent further harm to the platform or site.

Some users attempt to prevent flaming from ruining content by posting comments to the thread, such as "don't feed the trolls". This tactic draws from the idea that feeding a wild animal will encourage it to return to your house in search of more food. With this in mind, "don't feed the trolls" is a plea to the other users to ignore the comments of the trolls so as to not encourage them to continue their behavior.


A term to describe a message or comment concerning a controversial topic or subject that was posted in an attempt to aggravate or upset other users and initiate a flame war. This action is also known as trolling. The poster of flamebait typically has no interest in sincere discussion of the subject at hand, but rather aims to gain attention and entertainment at the expense of other users.

Flaming in Video Games

Video games are one of the most prominent platforms for flaming to date. Flaming in video games generally stems from either a player "lacking skill" and getting flamed by his/her teammates, or from an enemy flaming the user either because of them beating/getting beat by the user. One of the most notorious games that harbors flaming and toxicity is League of Legends. The game forces player to be on a teams of 5, and if one team member is underperforming, or "feeding" (feeding the other team kills, gold, objectives, etc...) which is more commonly used in League of Legends, then they are very likely to receive immense toxicity and flaming from their teammates [2]. The Riot Games staff, who works on League of Legends, as well as thousands of other companies who experience flaming in their games, are trying to deflate the number of flamers with a variety of tactics. The first tactic is punishment: things such as two-week bans or even permanent bans for a major offense, as well as chat restrictions, which allow no other players to see what one is typing. A new tactic being introduced by Riot and many other video game companies is rewarding non-toxic behavior. Players who do not get reported frequently are given gifts, such as new champions to play or new skins to use. This is in hopes to encourage people to not flame, so that they may be rewarded. [3]


There are several theories as to why people choose to flame on the Internet. One is that people feel distant from their victims due to the nature of the Internet and can not directly see how their words are affecting others. Another is that there is miscommunication taking place in that the Internet causes a lack of social cues compared to face-to-face interactions so flamers are unaware of how their words are being construed.

Because most flamers choose to be anonymous, they feel less responsible for their actions because there are no direct repercussions.

Ethical Issues

Legal Repercussions

Comments online can receive legal attention due to one of the characteristics of online verbal abusers: the legitimacy of threats against a person's life. In the United States, for example, an internet service provider can choose to deny a paying customer service due to online abuse; additionally, the court system can be leveraged to make Defamation, Libel and Slander claims. The existence of legal repercussions against flaming or trolling are not guaranteed in every country, however. Many online transgressions do not reach legal status due to the difficulty of authentically identifying the online aggressor.

Unfiltered Communication

Flaming is prevalent on internet forums and social websites largely due to online anonymity[4]. It is often the case that authentic identity credentials are not required to create an account on a forum. The disconnection between users of online communication services and their respective real-world identities gives them a psychological freedom to act in a rude or aggressive behavior. The anonymity of the internet also takes away immediate physical responses, a usual deterrent to offensive remarks.


One of the more severe side-effects of flaming is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is considered any form of harassment, threats, or blackmail that is perpetrated completely over the internet. It often inflicts severe emotional pain on the receiver. Past instances of cyberbullying include insults, stalking, and death threats, and have led to consequences such as legal repercussions, self-inflicted injury, and suicide; this is particularly common in younger generations, as cyber bullying has become a larger problem with the growing prominence of social networking. Cyberbullying allows bullies to attack others without seeing the repercussions. However, the repercussions are real and institutions are now starting to recognize the problem and create mechanisms and rules to prevent it.


One of the most dangerous aspects of flaming is that it c andan be practiced anonymously. Due to the anonymity of usernames and avatars online, determining the identity of the perpetrator of flaming can be very difficult. Flaming can be done between two people who do not know each other and who potentially will never meet. Youtube videos are a common site of flaming activity, as comments can be posted anonymously on most videos. here. With the protection of anonymity, it is easy for people to disconnect with humanity and the ethical implications of flaming.

See Also


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flaming_%28Internet%29
  2. https://kotaku.com/how-league-of-legends-enables-toxicity-1693572469
  3. https://www.polygon.com/2018/3/20/17143610/league-of-legends-toxic-players-tyler1-riot-games
  4. Anonymous Behavior in Virtual Environments
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