Trolls v. Humanity

September 14, 2011

I’m sure most of you will have seen or heard something about this story today. It’s difficult to comprehend the mentality which believes that this sort of behaviour is ever acceptable in society.

As you might expect there has been research done on the trolling phenomenon and, no doubt, there will be more to come as other cases like today’s will come to court.  First let’s clear up one misconception. The term troll and/or trolling does not derive from the mythical, under-bridge-dwelling creature of legend. Instead it derives from a fishing term where a baited line is dragged through the water in an attempt to get a bite. The original habitat of the internet troll was the online forum where they used to post inflammatory remarks into discussions to try and provoke arguments. The practice is still in evidence on forums but the term also seems to have spread to cover the sort of cyber-bullying which lead to the jailing of Sean Duffy today.

There is a very interesting (and reasonably short) academic paper on the motives of trolls here which gives some level of insight into possible reasons behind the behaviour of these individuals. Phrases such as;

“The troll uses negative behaviour to see how others react to their actions online, thus enhancing their sense of self.”

“Creating a specific online identity for the purpose of menace not only gives these users a place to hide their real life identity online through “weak ties”, it also offers a sense of empowerment.”

“…a troll’s need to harass stems from their desire to build their sense of online self, which is shaped by their actions.”

The paper then goes on to speculate that Web 2.0 will, in many ways, reduce the effectiveness of trolls. In a nut shell the author believes that as the web’s online communities become more and more interactive then the sense of community will strengthen. This suggests that,

“SNS’s (social networkworking systems) communities make real life connections to user behaviour, which a troll will be less willing to risk.”

ie. As Web 2.0 allows online communities to more closely mimic real communities then such behaviour (which would not normally be tolerated in a real world situation) becomes socially unacceptable online too.

Blimey, this post seems to have gone to places I didn’t originally expect it to when I started typing!!

Perhaps this sums it up

As Web 2.0 reduces the ability to remain anonymous so trolling becomes reduced too.


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