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Sealioning (also spelled sea-lioning and sea lioning) is a type of trolling or harassment which consists of pursuing people with persistent requests for evidence or repeated questions, while maintaining a pretense of civility.[1][2][3] It may take the form of "incessant, bad-faith invitations to engage in debate."[4] The troll pretends ignorance and feigns politeness, so that if the target is provoked into making an angry response, the troll can then act as the aggrieved party.[5][6] Sealioning can be performed by a single troll or by multiple ones acting in concert.[7] The technique of sealioning has been compared to the Gish gallop and metaphorically described as a denial-of-service attack targeted at human beings.[7]


The term originated with a 2014 strip of the webcomic Wondermark[8], where a character expresses a dislike of sea lions and a sea lion intrudes to repeatedly ask the character to explain.[9] "Sea lion" was quickly verbed, the term gained popularity as a way to describe online trolling, and it was used to describe some of the behavior of supporters of the Gamergate controversy.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Poland, Bailey (November 2016). Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online. University of Nebraska Press. pp. 144–145. ISBN 978-1-61234-766-0.
  2. ^ Sarkeesian, Anita (20 February 2015). "Anita Sarkeesian's Guide to Internetting While Female". Marie Claire. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  3. ^ Chandler, Daniel; Munday, Rod (3 March 2016). A Dictionary of Social Media. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780192518521. OCLC 952388585.
  4. ^ Sullivan, E.; Sondag, M.; Rutter, I.; Meulemans, W.; Cunningham, S.; Speckmann, B.; Alfano, M. "Can Real Social Epistemic Networks Deliver the Wisdom of Crowds?" (pdf). p. 21. Retrieved 28 January 2019 – via The PhilPapers Foundation.
  5. ^ Lindsay, Jessica (5 July 2018). "Sealioning is the new thing to worry about in relationships and online". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  6. ^ Stokel-Walker, Chris (18 August 2018). "How to handle a troll … and neuter a sea lion". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  7. ^ a b Johnson, Amy (2017). Gasser, Urs (ed.). "The Multiple Harms of Sea Lions" (PDF). Perspectives on Harmful Speech Online. Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. p. 14. Retrieved 16 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Wondermark #1062". 19 September 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2019.
  9. ^ Maxwell, Kerry (6 October 2015). "Definition of Sea lion". Macmillan Dictionary. Retrieved 10 January 2018.
  10. ^ Jhaver, Shagun; Ghoshal, Sucheta; Bruckman, Amy; Gilbert, Eric. "Online Harassment and Content Moderation: The Case of Blocklists". ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction. 25 (2): 12. doi:10.1145/3185593.
  11. ^ Massanari, Adrienne L. (2016). ""Damseling for Dollars": Toxic Technocultures and Geek Masculinity". In Lind, Rebecca Ann (ed.). Race and Gender in Electronic Media: Content, Context, Culture. Routledge. ISBN 9781317266129. OCLC 948090024. For supporters [of Gamergate], however, the hashtag became an effective way to swarm the mentions of users perceived as not sharing their views, which became known colloquially as "sea lioning" (Malki, 2014).

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