How I was trolled on the Internet

BERLIN, GERMANY - DECEMBER 28:  A participant sits with a laptop computer as he attends the annual Chaos Communication Congress of the Chaos Computer Club at the Berlin Congress Center on December 28, 2010 in Berlin, Germany. The Chaos Computer Club is Europe's biggest network of computer hackers and its annual congress draws up to 3,000 participants.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(CNN)As it happens, in recent weeks I was the target of a trolling campaign and saw exactly how it works. It started when an obscure website published a post titled "CNN host Fareed Zakaria calls for jihad rape of white women." The story claimed that in my "private blog" I had urged the use of American women as "sex slaves" to depopulate the white race. The post further claimed that on my Twitter account, I had written the following line: "Every death of a white person brings tears of joy to my eyes."

Disgusting. So much so that the item would collapse from its own weightlessness, right? Wrong. Here is what happened next: Hundreds of people began linking to it, tweeting and retweeting it, and adding their comments, which are too vulgar or racist to repeat. A few ultra-right-wing websites reprinted the story as fact. With each new cycle, the levels of hysteria rose, and people started demanding that I be fired, deported or killed. For a few days, the digital intimidation veered out into the real world. Some people called my house late one night and woke up and threatened my daughters, who are 7 and 12.
It would have taken a minute to click on the link and see that the original post was on a fake news site, one that claims to be satirical (though not very prominently). It would have taken simple common sense to realize the absurdity of the charge. But none of this mattered.