Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on February 25, 2013 By Draginol In Personal Computing

As we get more connected online, the haters of the world become more empowered. I am often astonished at some of the brazen behavior I see in comments and on forums by people who, one assumes, are functioning people in real life. 

I think a key ingredient is narcisism. i cant think of any other explanation for someone who puts effort into trying to upset other people while their own identities are just a bit of Google-Fu away. If you’ve ever read an article on someone before, there’s inevitably anonymous trolls who say unbelievably nasty things about them.  Of course, they do so because they think they're anonymous.

Imagine if their ugly behavior was quoted and attached to their “real name” when you Googled them? I suspect we’d see a change in behavior pretty quickly.

I have mixed feelings on anonymity on the Internet. On the one hand, I’ve seen people make threats against me, my wife and occasionally even against my kids. So I am very conscious of how vulnerable we are to the worst humanity has to offer.  On the other hand, I can’t help but notice that the worst behavior is usually done by people who think that they’re safe from retaliation because they think they’re anonymous.

So I’m not sure what should be done.  Almost everyone reading this has dealt (or at least observed) a persistent Internet troll. You can ban them but they’ll be back. As trolling becomes more common and increasingly nastier, it’s an issue that’s going to have to be addressed somehow.  Having seen the slow evolution of the Internet troll over the past 20 years, I can tell you, the ability to inflict harm on people is growing.  Sooner or later, it’s going to have to be dealt with.


Comments (Page 5)
on Mar 10, 2013

the_Monk
Everyone might take out a bad day/week on someone sometime, but to actually get "fun/fulfillment" (as you put it) out of "trolling" someone is just being a pathological asshole in my opinion. I would guess such a person is likely extremely unhappy with themselves and/or their circumstances and therefore continually seeks enjoyment at another person's expense.

Have you ever pulled a prank on someone before?  Why do people prank each other?  BECAUSE IT'S FUNNY...and most pranks don't actually bring the "victim" all that much harm...

But pranking, just like trolling, has a line that some cross but most don't...there's a point where the prank or trolling is just downright mean and truly hurtful...that's not the level I'm playing devil's advocate for, and it's those people that really do have all the stereotypical problems of being "losers" and "having nothing to live for"...

The problem I see is that harmless trolling that doesn't hurt (or even really bother) anyone is instantly being seen as the act of someone who is a crazy, lonely psychopath cooped up in their basement...that simply is not the case...

on Mar 10, 2013

Seleuceia


Have you ever pulled a prank on someone before?  Why do people prank each other?  BECAUSE IT'S FUNNY...and most pranks don't actually bring the "victim" all that much harm...

But pranking, just like trolling, has a line that some cross but most don't...there's a point where the prank or trolling is just downright mean and truly hurtful...that's not the level I'm playing devil's advocate for, and it's those people that really do have all the stereotypical problems of being "losers" and "having nothing to live for"...

The problem I see is that harmless trolling that doesn't hurt (or even really bother) anyone is instantly being seen as the act of someone who is a crazy, lonely psychopath cooped up in their basement...that simply is not the case...

 

No I have not pulled a prank on anyone (at least not that I remember).  I was taught, and I have taught all of my children that it is wrong to feel 'enjoyment' from another's demise even if it truly isn't as you say 'all that much harm....'.   I have taught my children that since we are creatures of habit if we make a habit of reacting by poking fun well then it stands to reason we will be that much less likely to be the helping/preventative hand in need.

I also didn't suggest that (those I refer to as) pathological assholes have 'nothing to live for' or are in fact 'losers'.  They are just that.......pathological assholes, and I choose not to associate with them (although these days that is in fact getting harder and harder to do) and I certainly would be ashamed if one of my children grew up to be one.

Lastly, I believe trolling is called 'trolling' because it is intentional bother being directed at someone/something with the objective of getting a rise.  In this world where there are so many more worthwhile things/actions which vie for our attention, expending any amount of effort on simply 'getting a rise' out of someone/something is wasteful.

on Mar 10, 2013

There's really only two types of trolls...

Ones who have already been removed from the site...

...and ones who have not been removed from the site.....yet.

Or put another way....

You are either an idiot child TRYING to be funny...but failing...

...or you are an idiot child trying to be nasty...and succeeding.

 

I think I can remember removing people many years ago who thought they were being 'funny' whilst making references to 9/11.   The issue with assuming you are funny is if you cannot read your audience you quite likely are not.  You're only actually 'funny' through your own naivete.

Oh, and 'harmless trolling' is an oxymoron.

on Mar 10, 2013

PS....or what the_Monk said...

on Mar 10, 2013

Frogboy
I've talked to the police in the past. There's not much they can/will do unless the threat seems credible.

It's a  like stalking was 15 or 20 years ago and to be honest, until there is such an instance that brings a huge public outcry (like Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989), nothing will be done or can be done by the law. Even in that case, I personally met a man whose mother was stabbed 39 times outside of the Chicago courtroom she was waiting to go into to have a PFA extended against her own stalker but it was the celebrity case that spurred the laws and changes to the laws.

The stalker laws themselves aren't perfect even though there is often more 'tangible' evidence to work with than there is in the 'virtual' world of the internet. 

Even if you took away a persons anonymity, you still have to have laws in place that are specific to the internet/virtual world to enforce and the people to enforce them. A lot of big cities can barely handle their current influx of 911 calls, then add to that every person who feels they have been threatened over the internet... How do we even begin?

I feel for you Brad. I really do.  I discovered that men have an ever harder time trying to get help from the law because we are 'men' and are supposed to or are expected to 'handle' these situations and not take the threat so 'seriously'. It's unnerving.

on Mar 10, 2013

Oh, and 'harmless trolling' is an oxymoron.

yup

on Mar 10, 2013

PoSmedley
It's a like stalking was 15 or 20 years ago and to be honest, until there is such an instance that brings a huge public outcry (like Rebecca Schaeffer in 1989), nothing will be done or can be done by the law.

You may not ever get "anti-trolling" laws...however, it would not surprise me if a high profile civil case related to trolling got people thinking and taking action...

For example, the story that Brad shared where a Jew (I think?) was mailed a box of ashes is the kind of thing that I can potentially see going to court...it wouldn't be the first time that someone sued because of distress and such, and if such a civil suit did occur and awarded the plaintiff amply, I can easily see that affecting society...once you have a precedent, you don't necessarily need "official" things like laws or regulations to get the results you desire....

Put another way, you don't need anti-trolling laws to curb trolling (or at least most of it)...


Let us consider these forums as an example....imagine (if you can) these forums without moderators...so if we have a troll, you can't just ban them or remove their account....so, what would happen?  Let's neglect spammers and the like and focus solely on just trolls...

Well, some might argue that the trolls would grow exponentially and the website would be overrun by trolls...but honestly, I don't think that's what would happen to these forums...

Look at this thread...take out all of Jafo's and Frogboy's posts, and you still have a thread with a lot of people very much so against trolling (on the web or otherwise)...the point is that the culture of these forums doesn't depend on the moderators....it's not like Jafo is a one many army standing against all trolls...the majority of people here on these forums don't like trolls either and look at them with disdain....

Monk and PoSmedley didn't need a moderator to get them to speak out against my post "defending" trolling....and if a troll were to come on here and really try to troll this thread, many posters would ignore them...the seasoned posters aren't going to "feed the troll" by getting pissy or responding...at most you might get a few curt posts telling the troll to go elsewhere...in short, the community here does not support trolling, and thus I would be very surprised if trolling proliferated on these forums even if moderators weren't doing their jobs...

I do concede that you would see more short bursts of trolling...but I think the community would "starve them out" so to speak and such trolling would quickly disappear (as in the troll would simply move on)...of course I don't have proof of this, it's just a theory...

However, I can say with certainty that many trolls on the Sins forum (which does not seem to be regulated very much) do in fact "starve" without the need for moderators getting involved...there is a reason why the modding section of the forums hardly ever gets trolled, and that is because the modding community simply does not tolerate it...trolls there are ignored and shunned...put another way, trolling the modders "isn't fun"...

Trolling the MP crowd however works extremely well because they will "entertain" the trolls by responding...put another way, the troll can easily "get a rise" out of the MP crowd...

If the culture of a forum does not make trolling "fun", the trolls will go away...with or without moderators, these forums have a culture that makes them a very poor target for trolling...now I wasn't here when these forums started so it may be that strict moderating made that culture in the first place, but ultimately I see these forums as a prime example of "democracy policing itself"...


More to the point of TBS gamesites having less trolling, those sites simply have more serious cultures that focus on legit strategy discussions, modding, etc....trolls simply starve on those sites because they "audience" just doesn't take the bite...trolls are ignored and the community polices themselves...

I understand that not all trolls can be ignored and that independent of trolling, we need moderators to deal with spammers and such, but most trolls can be easily starved -- it simply takes a strong community that polices itself...

on Mar 10, 2013

Seleuceia
I understand that not all trolls can be ignored and that independent of trolling, we need moderators to deal with spammers and such, but most trolls can be easily starved -- it simply takes a strong community that polices itself...

Not entirely.

The community you now see here on Stardock's sites is already 'filtered' and subtly adjusted over the past decade and more, so what you NOW have is a general user community who share the same interests along with disdain for trolling.

Would the [current] outcome be the same without the efforts of Moderators?  I say 'No'.

As I mentioned somewhere earlier....trolling is like graffiti ... leave it/them and it attracts more.

BOTH are a blight on society and NOT needed.

The only difference between spammers and trolls...is the former is instantly removed...and the latter is often reached-out to in an attempt to change their ways.  If/when that fails they too get the same boot to the bum.

Should Moderators attempt to intercede?  Probably not, not when it's far less effort to click 'Ban', but in spite of [some] negativity towards them  Stardock's Mods are all a pretty fair bunch - [myself excluded...someone has to be 'the bastard']... 

on Mar 10, 2013

Jafo, if you are allowed to answer this question....

How often or how many people do you have to boot because of "trolling" (so not spamming or really illicit activity) now versus, say, 5 years ago?  versus when the forums started (don't know when they started or which one came first)? 

Honestly I don't care about numbers as much as I'm interested in trends...did it start out bad and then slowly get better, was it a non issue at first and then grew to become a problem, etc....

Probably not, not when it's far less effort to click 'Ban', but in spite of [some] negativity towards them Stardock's Mods are all a pretty fair bunch

It is my experience that SD's forums are a hell of a lot more tolerant than most...to be fair, I speak from a fairly biased standpoint since I spend far more time around gaming forums which, well, aren't exactly known for their intellectual conversations about the real world...

I suppose it's a matter of perspective...compared to EA this place is like anarchy, compared to 4chan this place is like a fascist regime...

 

 

on Mar 10, 2013

Your post (reply #67) reads like "let's-absolve-the-troll-of his/her-responsibility-by making-the-community-responsible-for-trolling-or-the-lack-thereof-instead."

 

Does it really matter (at least to this discussion) why some communities seem to suffer more than others at the hands of trolls?

 

Anyone doing any kind of 'trolling' with the intent of finding fun/fulfillment (your words) through it is as I've already stated....a pathological asshole.  Whether or not the community will tolerate such intrusion is of no consequence since it doesn't change who that person is in our society.  So what that this forum or that forum will 'shun' them or make them 'starve' (as you put it), they'll just move on to the next forum, coffee shop, workplace, school or home where they'll continue being that pathological asshole.  Just because we might not have to deal with them here any longer doesn't mean the world/internet doesn't continue to do so somewhere.   Pathological assholes require moderation in whatever form is available.  Here that moderation takes the form of Jafo, elsewhere in society it might be a police officer or other such authority.  The moment that any/all moderation of same is removed or even perceived to be removed is the moment the problem grows at an even faster rate.  A world without moderation of trolls (of any kind) is not one I fancy living in, and I for one am glad we seem to have it as needed! 

 

Once again I put forward......

the_Monk
I was taught, and I have taught all of my children that it is wrong to feel 'enjoyment' from another's demise even if it truly isn't as you say 'all that much harm....'.   I have taught my children that since we are creatures of habit if we make a habit of reacting by poking fun well then it stands to reason we will be that much less likely to be the helping/preventative hand in need.

 

If we all teach our children that our practiced reaction should be the desired one maybe we can help change this troll-space of a world into a better place huh? 

on Mar 10, 2013

Seleuceia
Jafo, if you are allowed to answer this question....
How often or how many people do you have to boot because of "trolling" (so not spamming or really illicit activity) now versus, say, 5 years ago? versus when the forums started (don't know when they started or which one came first)?
Honestly I don't care about numbers as much as I'm interested in trends...did it start out bad and then slowly get better, was it a non issue at first and then grew to become a problem, etc....

It's neither/nor...

There have been times when "things went wrong" with Stardock's products/software which attracted new instances of trolling, so in reality the numbers come and go.

When Wincustomize.com started [for example] most of the user base were simply migrants/refugees from other skinning sites [mostly skinz.org] and already had a social rapport.  The vocal 'trolling' then was in reaction to the concept of a commercial company [Stardock] hosting/managing a skinning site when supposedly all before had been seat-of-the-pants 'amateur' sites.   That was all ill-founded as without commercial 'backing' WC would have long been the same as all the others.... pretty-much dead in the water.

Stardock's gaming sites were/aren't immune from backlash 'trolling' after perhaps a poor reception of a game release [could be worse...could be Maxxis at the moment], and yes, trolling of legitimat complaint is slightly more tolerated than some other places....there's always going to be a conflict of action/resolution when a troll may also be a customer.  I must add there have been utter idiots I have personally offered to pay-out [as customers] so I can rid our world of them, customer or not.

 

Overall, the frequency of 'troll removal' has dropped...

 

the_Monk .... I'm not 'the moderator' .... I'm just probably the most 'visible' as I've been doing it the longest [regularly]...

on Mar 10, 2013

the_Monk
Your post (reply #67) reads like "let's-absolve-the-troll-of his/her-responsibility-by making-the-community-responsible-for-trolling-or-the-lack-thereof-instead."

That wasn't the point...

If you park a Mercedes Benz in the middle of the ghetto and leave it there overnight, you probably shouldn't even bother to look for it in the morning...whoever took the car is still responsible for their wrong doing, but it doesn't change the fact that you as the car owner could have done something to prevent the problem...

Trolls will be trolls and independent of what society, the "community" or moderators do about them, trolls are still responsible for their behavior...but that doesn't change the fact that society still has to deal with them...we have all sorts of problem people in our society that right or wrong we have to deal with...in another words, even if you aren't part of the problem, you can still be a part of the solution...

Following my above example, if you don't park your Mercedes Benz in the ghetto, it's not like it's guaranteed that someone else's Mercedes Benz will get stolen...if no one parks their luxury car in the ghetto, then no luxury cars are going to get stolen in the ghetto...trolling, like most problematic behavior, requires opportunity...if you limit the opportunities, the behavior will decrease (though it may never truly go away)...it's not like this is the only website in the world that dislikes trolling and is willing to do something about it...

the_Monk
Here that moderation takes the form of Jafo, elsewhere in society it might be a police officer or other such authority. The moment that any/all moderation of same is removed or even perceived to be removed is the moment the problem grows at an even faster rate.

I'll first reiterate what I said earlier...

Seleuceia
now I wasn't here when these forums started so it may be that strict moderating made that culture in the first place, but ultimately I see these forums as a prime example of "democracy policing itself"...

Moderators may have indeed started the culture...I don't know, I wasn't here and Jafo obviously was so I will take his word on it...but once a culture exists, the amount of "official moderation" (whatever form that may come in) needed will decrease...the need may never reach zero, but it will definitely decrease...

To use a historical example, there was a time in America where most people were either racist or apathetic to the issue...it took a lot of "moderation" in the form of laws, federal marshals, and court cases to start a culture that frowned upon racism...today, that culture is very strong....yes, there is racism, but there is definitely far less of it than there was 40 years ago...or 140 years ago...more importantly, many people in this country look done upon racists with disgust...in short, it is a behavior that in general is not encouraged, but in fact disdained...

We still of course need "moderators" to address the race issue because it still is a problem in our society....but the amount of moderation has decreased substantially...we no longer need US marshals escorting black students to a college, and racists groups like the KKK are now seen as radical extremists instead of just "another interest group"...in 100 years, it is quite conceivable that race and skin color will be moot issues and thus the issue will require hardly any "moderation" at all....to take this example to the extreme, if you took away the 13th amendment today, you would not see companies and individuals rushing to bring back slavery....we as a society abhor the institution, look down upon it, and don't need a law to prevent it from coming back...

To sum it up, I think that for most forums, the culture of the website is the best defense against trolls...moderators may have been absolutely essential when forum started and may still be important, but as time goes on I would gander that the influence of the moderator decreases while the influence of the communities' culture increases....

 

 

on Mar 10, 2013

Stardock's gaming sites were/aren't immune from backlash 'trolling' after perhaps a poor reception of a game release

This is the trolling on SD's forums I'm most familiar with...I take it then that the trolling on non-game related forums SD has is essentially non-existent?  It certainly would make sense...I see mods/devs in the (coming from Sins forums) "off-topic" threads all the time but hardly ever in game threads (unless it's a technical issue)...

on Mar 10, 2013


the_Monk .... I'm not 'the moderator' .... I'm just probably the most 'visible' as I've been doing it the longest [regularly]...

 

Oh great.....so I can get banned by any number of people now eh?   

on Mar 10, 2013

Seleuceia
This is the trolling on SD's forums I'm most familiar with...I take it then that the trolling on non-game related forums SD has is essentially non-existent? It certainly would make sense...I see mods/devs in the (coming from Sins forums) "off-topic" threads all the time but hardly ever in game threads (unless it's a technical issue)...

No...a lot of that can be the policy of cross-posting of various forum sections to other or all sites, in which case such sections as 'off-topic' are seen by more than just the single forum moderator who may be predominantly only at, say, SOSA.  Much of the specific gaming threads/topics tend to concentrate on their own topic.  It's often only the general-interest threads/forums that a wide enough audience that can include trolls looking for targets.

I'm sure that if you're looking for examples of trolling re dissatisfaction with a product/game all you need to do is Google 'Maxxis' as currently they are in a world of hurt....so much so I really don't want to know...