The New York Times has a post on Trolls and Trolling today. It cites an academic named Whitney Phillips who has written a book about Trolls.
Whitney says “As long as the Internet keeps operating according to a click-based economy, trolls will maybe not win, but they will always be present.”
We’ve had our fair share of Trolls here at AVC over the years. They are most notable whenever I write something negative about Apple.
But we also get them on posts that are more personal in nature.
Yesterday I got a Kik from William who helps me moderate AVC.
The comment in question was a tasteless comment about the Gotham Gal. William deleted it as I would have.
Had it been a tasteless comment about me, I would more likely have let it stand as I’m inclined to let everyone see how warped these trolls are.
I think Whitney is right that we are unlikely to have an open Internet without trolls. They are annoying, as is comment spam and many other things, but I’d rather have an open forum where anyone can comment, than close things down and lose all that comes from the freedom to say and do what you want.
Trolls are annoying but I am certainly happy to live with them given the alternatives.
at times an opposing viewpoint can appear to be a troll.although not easy, its admirable you let the comments stand as much as possible.
i agree that there is a fine linea lot has to do with how it is said, not what is said
I think you need to make a distinction between the Open and Anonymous Internet. Andreessen has written about his distaste for anonymous apps (http://on.recode.net/1oAqUNv) specifically because of the ruthless behavior they espouse. The same wisdom holds true for successful trolling. The troll has nothing to lose…friends, family, fans…but it’s the asymmetry of reputation that is most problematic and underscores the difference between the Anonymous Internet and Open Internet. Time and again, the world has proven to be a dangerous place when “people” have nothing to lose. Give them a reputation, or require them to build one, and the game changes.
In this case, the troller’s email was a profanity word @domain.com, so it was adding insult to injury.
It’s comforting to know that the ‘Mounties’ are on the job. Thanks, William
Does Disqus track the corresponding device?
In what way do you mean?
IP address is revealed via admin as well as the email.but it can be a bogus email of course, and the troller could use a VPN re-direct or screen, so you only know the ISP name, if that.so it’s relatively easy for trolls to remain anonymous.
Trolls can also take their acts offline, many of us have transparent identities and contact into.
One or two times, when I re-read one of my comments, it felt like it would look like I was trolling someone here!Usually things I thought were funny, or wrote too quickly.
Of the 6 years I have been an AVC regular, 99% of trolls cross the line by miles.
Trolls do seem like a necessary evil. In strong communities (like this one, where self-policing is an option) they’re kept at bay, but the amount of trolling that goes on news websites and similar more public forums where communities aren’t as strongly formed is astounding to me.A formal thank you to our bouncers: you, Wiliam, and Shana who usually take care of trolls here at the bar before the rest of us have a chance to notice them.
Yes, thank you for keeping the bar clean.
True Ana. So many other sites (especially mainstream media) have a large proportion of troll comments, and that’s a big turn off, and it turns away commenters who would have otherwise commented.
Yes, Shana & William do a great job.We can all help though. I really think that direct , calm, accurate description of a troll’a behavior – by other commenters – has been effective on AVC.Trolls want to look rebellious & cool. When other commenters calmly & logically brand them as losers, they vaporize.
The flagging helps. Any user can flag a comment, and we get an email. Actually, that comment from yesterday was also flagged by someone. Whoever it was: Thank you.
Not sure that “anyone can flag” and “mod gets an email” is a good idea. (Although obviously it hasn’t been a problem so far). Reason is that I can see a troller doing a DOS by flagging many things thereby making it more likely to be able to get in an actual troll. I would think there should be some bar to who can flag even if that bar is fairly low.
Oy, that’s probably a corner case you’ve described. let’s not make it so obvious what the loopholes are 🙂 We would know if there was excessive use of the flagging.
You’re welcome. I didn’t realize the flagging was anonymous.Maybe knowing that that would make more people comfortable flagging the comments we don’t want to see around here.
Yes, and…several of the women who come to your “bar” know one another in Real Life. This is a pretty good place.And yet, we’ve all been trolled in one way or another — some worse than others. At a certain point it becomes chilling, both personally and potentially business-wise, too.I’ve lived cities since the early 80s, and in some dicey neighborhoods.It’s not my inclination to walk around frightened. In addition to dumb luck, I have a good radar. I trust my ability to read situations and body language, and knowing when to get myself out of an area, change cars on the train.You don’t have that online. You’ve commented before about wanting more participation from women here. So many women just don’t participate online at all, much less here. We’ve seen or heard what can happen.And after being trolled, for a while I was on high alert walking around in my daily life. Was reluctant to return business emails and calls from people I don’t know. (Potentially not a great business move.)So there’s that.
Worth remembering. For every ugly comment on avc there will be hundreds of thoughts that oppose the opinion. For every bad thing said of a decent person there may be thousands of quiet murmurs of dissent. Edit corrected spell check murders to murmurs (perhaps I should have let it stand 😉
I read this yesterday http://jezebel.com/pregnant… and whilst it could itself be an exercise in trolling – if not it again reinforces that seemingly reasonable humans can transform into monsters when couched behind a single piece of glass.
trolls are just just looking for a rise. I think its best just not to engage with them and they will go away unless its offensive and then you just delete it. Take away the oxygen and they soon die.
While many people celebrated the death of UK PM Margaret Thatcher, (innapproproate regardless of one’s politics) one of her unquestionably positive contributions to society was her refusal to negotiate with hijackers and her call to deny them the “oxygen of publicity”
Yes. “Don’t feed the trolls.”
They exist in everyday life so why not online too
They just have scale online….
Be good or be gone.Community works when the community works (as in self moderation, flagging, etc.
Jim – I agree, roasting trolls is not just a bouncer gig. Everyone can contribute to a troll unfriendly environment.
Yup. That’s how the best ones operate.
“Be good or be gone.” Yes!
It is a consequence of the the village square becoming a global community. But this is both bad and good. The physical nature and closeness of the small town created a self-policing societal mechanism that stamped out or pushed outside deviant behaviors. If you could see the person and knew the person, it was less likely anyone would step out of bounds of the standards set by the community. However, sometimes that “deviant behavior” was just the type of disruptive force needed to keep the community vibrant and engaged which in turns helps the community to grow. The global village of the Internet frees us from the constraints of provincial local values to bring us new insights and innovations, but we also have to live with the negatives of the anonymity and openness of the medium through which people engage in destructive communications.I am all in favor of anonymity and openness. If it brings out the best in people and humanity, then it is worth dealing with the opposite even when the attacks are personal. That being said, I think what you have created at AVC in conjunction with the members of this community have been able to effectively straddle the line in allowing openness while ensuring it is a civil place to participate.
Most everything flies and AVC. You need to be a real idiot to get bounced out of this place
Strong mods and a community that doesn’t take the bait keeps them awayAVC is a great online communityAnd the depth and breadth of knowledge on here and other communities I frequent is why I participateThat said, mass media comments tend toward slimeRelated: it is a truism that comments on any piece about feminism prove the need for feminism
It’s easy to hide behind a keyboard. We should draw a line in the sand that distinguishes commenting from defaming.
I’ve encountered a few sociopaths in life/business; many can do a pretty good job of disguising their warped minds, when it suits them. They walk amongst us, that’s the disconcerting thing.One thing I’ve never really liked about the ‘net especially now in social media guise, is the ease with such people can be twisted ‘keyboard warriors’ with anonymity – they know few they offend can or will do a forensic audit to track them down. I’d be happier if your true ID was totally transparent – and this was mandatory – at all times.
I think the key is to keep letting them stick out like a soar thumb, or squish them like flies with a zero tolerance policy when the red lines are crossed.A good community is like a fruit tree. Got to keep the flies out, and let the fruit blossom.
I prefer the cocktail party analogy. You don’t just invite people over to your home and then leave them to their own devices (mobile devices or otherwise).
except for bees. #pollination
And birds… Birds and da bees.
ha en bra dagare u practicing
Not so much. Visiting Swedish friends/family…and beside, everyone here speaks English.
Hmm trouble is the flies always go for the low _ hanging fruit. In this case the softer targets that are sweeter for it. Fred shows his mettle by tolerating all he can. It s to be admired but I also like that he takes.a.stand when it matters+100 William and shana
Sounds a bit like a statement from Chauncey Gardiner for Jersey Kosinski’s ‘Being There’ 😉
So, Jerzy Kosiński wrote ‘Being There’. I hadn’t realized that. I saw the movie: Peter Sellers was a riot, and Shirley MacLaine was drop dead gorgeous. Otherwise the story was a bit of a strain!So, that is the same Jerzy Kosiński who wrote ‘The Painted Bird’ which somehow I happened to read. I didn’t know what the heck it was about except a lot of non-fun stuff except just now I read the Wikipedia description and sort of ‘get it’.My wife also read the thing and seemed to ‘get it’, but she was brilliant, especially at literature. I’m a nerd and took a long time to ‘get it’ on literature. Music? Got that right away, well before age 5. Literature? I always thought that if the writer had something to say, then they should have written an essay. Of course, I didn’t apply that standard to music!But I’ll never ‘get it’ on Jerzy Kosiński.
yup, one and the same.
Ha. I didn’t know that.
What a great flic. The intersection of Peter Sellers and Jerzy Kosinski was so brilliant.
“There are 7 billion people on the planet. Don’t let one spoil your day..”
100%. I LOVE that one.
Glad, monsieur! 🙂
Thank you. 🙂 Easier said than done of course. 🙂
Anyone else reflected that yesterday’s graffiti post and today’s bear analogy?
But distinct – and that’s the rub.
“Real names be proof”
I have been called names by trolls on a regular basis at every publication I have written for.Still, it’s worth the freedom to express feedback and opinion. And it’s especially worth it when you get the very well-thought-out comments that make you think.
Haven’t had an opportunity to read the article just yet — but there are some signs that we’re moving away from click-based to “engagement” e.g. time on page. Any ideas if that shift would fix or exacerbate the problem?
1/ not all trolls are created equal. the motivation behind the comment is perhaps more important than the comment itself.2/ I think the proof-of-burn idea I put forward could help eradicate trolling – https://www.usv.com/posts/a…
I like it. Not a perfect solution, because there is an inverse relationship between cost (sacrifice) and adoption (higher cost lower adoption) as well as a link between cost and efficacy (higher cost, higher efficacy). But it’s a neat idea…An analogy, Steam Community (online gaming) uses a Ban (and time-based suspension) system based on feedback (sometimes voting) as well as in-game a-hole detection. This system works well except that a new account (and game license) costs only $5 for many games (e.g. Counter Strike). You’ll find there is a relationship between the cost of getting a new account and the amount of trolls interrupting productive activity.Obvious, sure, but probably a hitch in the concept. A way to pay and then earn honor-points (see Stack Overflow) might be a mediating force.
Work (code, writing, music) is made available on the internet for the pleasure/benefit of productive people, not for the troll. If we just remember that we’ll be happy, even if sometimes the only people talking are the trolls. Keep it coming brother!
Goes to show just because you can say does not mean you have to.the golden rule and self discipline are always cool.
I won’t be so laissez faire. We have a responsibility to set norms for this society we are building. I believe in speech free from government interference. But I don’t believe that we have any obligation to provide a showcase for trolls and their abuses. Indeed, if you built a village and had no police and no garbage and repair crews there, you’d have built an irresponsible platform for a community. I just wrote about this here: http://buzzmachine.com/2014…
I’m not sure there’s a black & white solution to trolls, having seen some good / bad / ugly examples here and in other places.Some trolls could be mildly amusing, and others mildly annoying, but it’s when are really annoying, abusive, insulting, tasteless, gross or plain appalling, that they have to be dealt with. We can deal with them by ignoring them (let sleeping dogs lie), ridiculing them, or deleting them. It varies.
I never stop being amazed at the flow of hostile comments inspired by gender. Unfortunately, vile as they are, they still hurt when then hit (no matter how thick your skin is). Quiet murmurs of dissension unfortunately don’t accomplish anything and do nothing to help the victim. At least if the murmurs are given voice, then the victim knows she’s not alone. This minimal effort reinforces community at an essential moment. Perhaps to say nothing suggests the bystander is not vested in the community. I’ve been out of this community for quite a long time, but was previously very active. The moment that cemented my earlier community membership was when someone sniped me rather nastily – and others came to my support. It mean the world at a moment when I was deciding whether to stay or go for good. [Par.1 Typo removed]
Quiet murmurs of dissension unfortunately don’t accomplish anything and do nothing to help the victim. At least if the murmurs are given voice, then the victim knows she’s not alone. This minimal effort reinforces community at an essential moment. Perhaps to say nothing suggests the bystander is not vested in the community.Very well put.And it’s kind of paradoxical in a way. Irl you can see why people don’t want to get involved. Because it might cause them tangible harm (job status etc.) But online there are tons of people who wouldn’t be harmed so the only thing they are afraid of is the abusive person turning on them. (I guess for some people that’s a valid reason).The other issue is if you are rational you want to construct an argument why the abusive person is wrong not just say “what the fuck are you talking about”. If you don’t do that it just lowers the discourse and the whole community. Unfortunately it takes quite an effort to reply without further stoking delight in the abusive troll. So I guess many people don’t have the time to do that.What’s interesting is that I always wondered why you left but had jumped to a different conclusion as to the reason.
Hi LE! I left not totally consciously and with the intent of coming back. It boiled down to needing to drive focus on a number of key commitments (personal and professional) which really had me at the max, time-wise. But also, I wasn’t sure what my AVC voice would/should be given the new role I’d taken on. (This context actually sets up the joke — being a female, AND working for Microsoft — would set me up as the most-hate-worthy commenter on AVC!!! 🙂 On a smaller level, though, I lost momentum when DISQUS removed the ability to see who liked your comments, so I could grok who my supporters are. That was disconcerting to me because I felt blind and also it zapped some of the addictive juice that pulled me back and back. My role is tweaking a bit right now, so I am curious about re-entering. There is a wonderful freedom that comes when you are an entrepreneur working for yourself; while on a paycheck I’ve at to pull back on my swing a bit. But, I love Aug/Sept as a time to re-set and try new things out. I’ve missed all my friends here very much.
Well you can grok you have a supporter here, welcome back
It’s good to “see” you here.
Hey Anne!! Great to see you too.
But also, I wasn’t sure what my AVC voice would/should be given the new role I’d taken on.That was actually what I suspected.On a smaller level, though, I lost momentum when DISQUS removed the ability to see who liked your commentsBut you see that is there now, right? You can see who likes by mousing over the up arrow. Sometimes it doesn’t pop up quickly (like with netflix summaries something has to load and is delayed some time). Interesting though because if that lack of loading was the reason it’s another thing that disqus has to get fixed. Any action should have feedback even if just “hey wait a minute and we’ll show you want you think you want to see”. (I’m serious about this..)when you are an entrepreneur working for yourselfI can definitely see how working for Microsoft could limit what you can say publicly regardless of what their policies were or not. Or if they even claimed to care. Because I’m not sure how “honest” people can be if they are constantly thinking that someone might misinterpret something that they say and then (because of the lack of ability to clarify) suffer some kind of permanent reputation harm. Especially because in a short format you might forget to qualify something.For example imagine if I say “well you know back in the day women used to stay at home and that was good!” well think what would happen. But if I wrote a 10 page paper on that subject (or a full article) I could clarify exactly why I said that one sentence and it would make sense.
Resounding yes, yes and yes!!!!!
Yeah. The comment that William nuked was a sexually oriented comment. These people are sick and women take the brunt of their sickness. Just thinking about it pisses me off.
Without knowing what that specific comment said, I have to disagree. These people aren’t sick. They are perfectly normal and that is the problem. Most people still see women as existing merely for the sexual satisfaction of men. Some do overtly, some are quieter and some lie even to themselves. But I think the people who really see and practice the ethic of treating women as equals deserving of all the same rights as men are the minority.
Had it been a tasteless comment about me, I would more likely have let it stand as I’m inclined to let everyone see how warped these trolls are.The comment that William nuked was a sexually oriented comment.What sexually oriented comment would be ok to say about you (or about any man for that matter)?
Not knowing what was said, I am playing potential stupid phrases in my head, spanning garden variety slut-shaming or rape threats. The ones I’m thinking of sound silly when applied to a guy; when applied to a woman it sounds directly threatening. A key difference is that when the threats reflect physical and verbal offenses which happen commonly IRL (for women, rape and slut shaming do), then the alert level might be more sensitive. That said, just want to be clear I’m speaking in gross generalization here. Hostile comments toward any guy are still gross/hateful and equally wrong and as member of a community I would want to speak up against them in equal measure.
The Guardian had an article about anonymous comments. It was interesting to me because the editor conflated disagreeing with the columnist as abuse (and the columnists in question are awful). The Sacramento Bee left disqus for a Facebook linked comment section because of a feral horde of conservatives. The comment section is now a dead zone. I’m sure they’ve lost profitable traffic. If you’re an advertising based web site, the trolls might be your most profitable customers.
I think Louis CK said it best during a discussion about technology and children:”You know, I think [phones] are toxic, especially for kids. They don’t look at people when they talk to them. They don’t build the empathy. Kids are mean and it’s because they’re trying it out. They look at a kid and they go, “you’re fat.” Then they see the kid’s face scrunch up and say “ooh, that doesn’t feel good.” But when they write ‘you’re fat’, they go, “hmm, that was fun.””
Then they see the kid’s face scrunch up and say “ooh, that doesn’t feel good.”There are also of course kids who a) enjoy seeing someone else uncomfortable and b) who may have, say, aspergers and are blind to facial emotions.Separately people who are blind to reaction and emotion as described can make good cold calling sales people.
Look who’s here! Fun to see you 🙂
What @KirstenLambertsen said!
The bigger point is that, (other than the terribly offensive nature of amateur trolls) comments are used as a sophisticated weapon of propaganda and that the internet is actually being bought/hijacked by complex, professional shadow organizations via their own version of ‘social media managers’. Several studies and experiments in the last year show that they definitely impact the readers’ perceptions of the article and the author. In articles on climate science, financial policy, unions, and government regulation there is an unseen effort to manipulate the “fair and balanced” dialog and discredit opposing points of view. It works surprisingly well, with a great ROI. Marketing is marketing, and the big boys are waaaay more involved than most understand. Name an issue with a big financial reward at stake and you’ll find a ‘social media’ team that is much more sophisticated than anything the Gap or J Crew has employed; you’ve read tons of their posts already without knowing it.
I know I’ve said this many times before, but it was AVC that brought me back to online communities after giving up on them almost 20 years ago because of trolls. I see comments that cross the line from time to time, but they always seem to be dealt with.I’m glad we have William and Shana – they deserve the credit they are getting in the comments today.
Letting people see how warped these trolls are is why the trolls are trolling. They want to be seen and they want to be reacted to (and you can’t control other folks’ choice to feed these trolls with angry replies). The way to deal with trolls most effectively is to quietly delete them if you have the power to. If you don’t, flag them. If you can’t flag them, ignore them. Most of them are doing “broad spectrum trolling’ (hitting lots of different sites) and they will naturally gravitate towards the communities where they get the most visible reaction (comments, downvotes, or just being seen on a high profile site).
Personally, I think the vast majority of folks have become desensitized to troll behaviour and largely ignore the noise. My observations have been that the people who get incensed to respond to troll behaviour have steadily dropped over the years thus blunting the impact.It parallels a bit to the early days of the net when people would send gruesome pictures etc of car accidents etc etc via email. That behaviour has declined to almost nil at least as far as it reaches my inbox.That said, when a conversation has a highly disproportionate amount of troll noise I tend to not get as engaged in the dialogue.
as Jew that grew up in antisemitism environment and later Israeli citizen I met many trolls in real life that blame me personally in all problems in their country or in whole world or in entire Human history. Probably this life experience makes me less sensitive for virtual trolls and I tend to agree with Ana – trolls are necessary evil that will stay with us for a long time (or forever). Nevertheless any community should know to defense itself from these destroying forces, means to set red lines and punish each time trolls that cross these lines.
as Jew that grew up in antisemitismWhat part of the country (I’m assuming the US?) did you grow up in? (Or do you mean in the Soviet Union which is what your name seems to be..)
(Just saw your linkedin). I was engaged to a girl who worked for Scitex and was involved in the printing industry for years.Growing up in the US as a jew in the area I grew up in I didn’t experience what you did in any way (it also helped that my name isn’t particularly ethnic). My dad though grew up in Europe and pretty much had your experience.
I presume Trolls are same kind of people – angry, unsatisfied, looking to abuse someone.
Trolls find it harder to get traction where communities are strong and, for me, an undervalued denominator is the welcome that newcomers receive. Mainstream media blogs where trolls often flourish are communities only by dint of numbers rather than social cohesion.Fred’s willingness to respond to so many comments set the tenor long ago and was one of the reasons I felt able to dip into an arena far removed from my own.
Raises an interesting question. Celebrities often hired people to answer their mail. I wonder if there is a market for ghost blog owners. People that could take the place of the site owner, strictly to keep order and reply to comments.  Could be opaque or transparent. Anyone blessed by the particular celebrity would have enough importance to provide value. I don’t mean moderators. I mean “Brad Pitts assistant”.
The Bill of Rights guaranteed us liberty. The Constitution codified it. Of course, with liberty comes the responsibility of having it. I am with Fred, I dislike trolls but I prefer the way we have it to the way it would be without them.
Yes. We’re very careful about the ones being deleted. They would typically cross the red line, and Fred has said where that line is, e.g. his family is off limits.
Totally agree with that. Anyone can take shots at me. Don’t take shots at my family. I have had some pretty racist comments on my blog on rare occasions. I note them and leave them up to let people see how stupid the person is.
Back in the day Car and Driver (or was it Road & Track?) used to have all sorts of snappy replies to people who wrote to the editor with screwy things to say. It was actually something (iirc) that made reading the comments fun.I guess the implementation of that on a blog would be to do the snappy reply but then not allow any replies to the reply. (Because in a print mag there is no way for the troller to get the last word.)
Related:”Which athletes turn trolling into performance art?”(Think Reggie Miller, Terrell Owens…)http://www.sportsonearth.co…
I see comments below about the need to use real names only and have full transparency. I don’t agree. Anonymity and pseudonymity are absolutely necessary online. The public web as a whole is totally transparent for search engines – which makes it into a truly global village.We want to have something similar to a city – with multiple contexts in which people act appropriately to each one of those contexts. A person lives in many contexts. We don’t have one public face (as Facebook would have it). We have multiple public facets.In fact, I don’t believe we have one “true” private face either. Even in our own thoughts, we are not one. Real names and government issued IDs are no more than “handles” – mostly in the hands of other people and social institutions. I even believe that in the future people will have the legal right to create for themselves multiple names/IDs to use in different contexts.
There is a difference between trolls and jerks. (Though there is of course overlap) A racist or misogynistic comment can be genuine even if repulsive. Trolls are being in some way disingenuous. And that’s not always a bad thing. Playing devil’s advocate, or simply taking a position you don’t espouse in order to point the holes in someone’s argument can be very productive forms of trolling. And some trolls are still remembered positively after centuries. Think “A modest proposal” by Jonathan Swift. Trolling is not all bad.
I’ve participated in online communities for years. I don’t always agree with Anil Dash but he did a great job of articulating something I have felt for a long time here: http://dashes.com/anil/2011….What’s pretty clear to me is that because of the community and active management of the comments, AVC is overall a civil and good place. Many news sites do not really manage their comments and they devolve. The thing a lot of advocates of open places fail to get is that the assholes drive away their good customers. I think that most “nice” people end up deciding to vote with their feet (by leaving) when they encounter trollish behavior. As a result of this the trolls have quite a bit of power to ruin or quash the beginnings of good communities.
Everyone should read the article. Also, it is helpful to remember that there are a few types of Trolls:1) troublemakers, of varying degrees2) well intentioned trolls (e.g. trolling in a gaming environment to encourage people to research game play mechanics themselves rather than a) whine, b) ask for stuff, c) to offset the asshole label the answerer is often labeled with by telling the one asking the question, “research your answer on the game forums, etc.”The third type of troll is the one that is quite likely the most dangerous and harmful to society.3) Someone who is party to a company sale with a lot of zeros attached and then, after the sale, might mention that the company sold really never had any traction, or business model, or customers, etc.
This is absurd. You and Gotham Gal are the greatest.
it could be worse. i’d rather be trolled than stalked. forget about it and enjoy your six weeks. bon voyage!p.s. posting about it is their oxygen.
the xkcd solution to trollshttp://xkcd.com/481/
Here is a recent TED video on entrepreneurship and capitalism. Maybe a candidate for your video of the week.http://www.ted.com/talks/ni…
The moderator community you’ve built here is great, and is a model for others to keep the trolls at bay.