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1 Charles Johnson  Wed, Feb 12, 2014 11:38:47am

This has actually been obvious for many years. However…

But the intriguing thing about this new study by researchers from University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg and University of British Columbia is the idea that trolling behavior springs not from the opportunity provided by the Internet, but from innate characteristics people possess both online and off.

That bodes poorly for efforts to tame the trolls. It also suggests, somewhat ominously, that there are lots of “everyday sadists among us.”

The existence of anonymous Internet comment systems makes it more likely that sadists will let their inner animals run free, without the social cues that come from interpersonal interactions. And yes, there are lots of everyday sadists around, but in non-online situations they tend to hide it unless they feel safe.

However, I don’t agree that it’s impossible to get a handle on the trolling problem. The real reason why so many comment sections turn into sewers and troll farms is because the administrators aren’t administrating. And quite often it’s because they value the traffic from troll threads more than they value a civil community.

2 Mentis Fugit  Wed, Feb 12, 2014 12:28:26pm

From the linked “Know Your Meme” post:

The contemporary use of the term is alleged to have appeared on the Internet in the late 1980s, but the earliest known mention of the word “troll” on record can be found in a post on the Usenet newsgroup alt.folklore.urban from December 14th, 1992. The term continued to grow popular in the early 1990s through its usage in the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban and by the late 1990s, the alt.folklore.urban newsgroup had such heavy traffic and participation that acts of trolling became frowned upon.

As a former AFUista I would point out that trolling as defined at the time was a far more civil and civilized beast than its drooling, snot-gobbling, bastard crotchspawn in the twenty-teens. It’s the difference between mischief and malice.

3 RadicalModerate  Wed, Feb 12, 2014 12:46:05pm

A blog that I have been reading recently is the one that is written by Christopher Poole, whose claim to fame is the creation and administration of 4chan. He’s pretty much on the front lines of this discussion as it pertains to the internet, and some of what he writes about addresses what he feels is a struggle to properly balance creativity and honest discourse that springs from true anonymity and keeping reins on the miscreants that choose to abuse the privilege. He also talks about the trials and tribulations of creating (and later dealing with the failure of) his first major startup venture. I think it’s well worth a read.

4 rosiee  Wed, Feb 12, 2014 1:24:04pm

re: #3 RadicalModerate

Poole has shown again and again that he’d rather have /pol/, /new/ and all those stormfront posters around then have them go to another site. Poole is someone who likes to stand back and watch people tear each other’s throats out.

5 RadicalModerate  Wed, Feb 12, 2014 1:55:54pm

re: #4 rosiee

Poole has shown again and again that he’d rather have /pol/, /new/ and all those stormfront posters around then have them go to another site. Poole is someone who likes to stand back and watch people tear each other’s throats out.

It’s actually a compromise of sorts - the main reason /pol/ is kept around is because if he did shut it down, those same posters would be polluting the rest of the site as a whole - it happened when he shut down prior news/politics discussion forums - /n/, then later /new/. They didn’t leave then, instead they went to /int/, /k/, /lit/,/sci/, and almost every other popular board on the site, derailing any serious discussion with their racist attacks. The worst of them were habitual ban-evaders who used proxies to stay ahead of the janitors and mods attempts (who are severely understaffed, as it a unpaid volunteer job) to keep them away. Because of all of this, /pol/ was created as a “containment” board in hopes that they would stay in their little area.

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