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. It may take the form of "incessant, bad-faith invitations to engage in debate".
The troll feigns ignorance and politeness, so that if the target is provoked into making an angry response, the troll can then act as the aggrieved party. Sealioning can be performed by a single troll or by multiple ones acting in concert. The technique of sealioning has been compared to the Gish gallop and metaphorically described as a denial-of-service attack targeted at human beings.
Rhetorically, sealioning fuses persistent questioning—often about basic information, information on easily found elsewhere, or unrelated or tangential points—with a loudly-insisted-upon commitment to reasonable debate. It disguises itself as a sincere attempt to learn and communicate. Sealioning thus works both to exhaust a target's patience, attention, and communicative effort, and to portray the target as unreasonable. While the questions of the "sea lion" may seem innocent, they're intended maliciously and have harmful consequences.
The term originated with a 2014 strip of the webcomic Wondermark by David Malki, where a character expresses a dislike of sea lions and a sea lion intrudes to repeatedly ask the character to explain. "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.
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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).