What to do about Internet trolls?

By on February 25, 2013 10:12:05 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Draginol

Join Date 03/2001
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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.

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February 26, 2013 9:23:21 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


 

 

On another game producer's forum, (Matrix) they have a little green button you can hit which blocks all forum messages from that user from showing.  So if somebody seems annoying, rather then feeding them by telling them they are annoying, you can just hit the little green button, and block from ever having to see them.

 

By personally blocking, its like the troll doesn't exist.  If enough people are blocking, the troll will not even know if his message is getting out, he will be receiving no feedback.

 

Its a self-moderating system...and seems to work okay.  There are people on their forum I have more or less permanently blocked, and others that I will block/unblock periodically.  Even some who may seem like they are trolling, but in fact, actually have a message to get across.

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February 26, 2013 9:32:10 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Here there's a nondescript coloured button that blocks a troll from from being here at all, whether fed or starved.

It too is a moderated system....that works just fine...

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February 26, 2013 10:38:06 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


 

 

I had an amusing thought.  Instead of kicking trolls off of a forum, you block them so that only they can see their own messages.  That way they will just drift away once they realize they are not getting any responses (since we wont see what they are writing).

 

 

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February 27, 2013 5:37:09 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Yeah, that's what i did in my moddie days. Works great. You do tend to get angry pm's from them when they doublecheck using another account. 

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February 27, 2013 10:31:06 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Jafo,
There are probably dozens/maybe hundreds of people on Stardock's sites who think I am [or some other admin is] prejudiced against them and just dying for them to make another faux pas.

I know that it is the desired effect that the staff operate entirely on principles when conducting business. However, having been around long enough, I have noticed that personalities do come into play when giving or taking away. Love for you all to admit to being human once in awhile.

Was there a specific reason for the OP?

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February 27, 2013 2:11:07 PM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

Look, trolling has been around in the media long before the internet was made public.  The real difference between the internet and everywhere else is all this amazing equal convenience brings it down to a micro level.  It raises your attention now because it targets you directly in addition to personally.  Before that was not the case.  Trolls had to go broad instead of surgical by attacking things people identify with.  Whether that's done through a petty billboard sign or an intentionally skewed newspaper article.

Toady, anyone who wants can google up an e-place and meet someone with an opposing viewpoint with little effort.  Before it wasn't quite that easy.

 

The good that has come from all this negative juvenile behavior is people will eventually recognize it where ever it manifests in society and reject it.  Who knows?  Maybe a real positive change will come.

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February 28, 2013 9:06:29 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

I think strong moderation is important. I think it's one of the reasons our forums are so popular and successful.

But most site owners can't do that. It's too much of a task.  I have watched my favorite non-Stardock forum (qt3) lose most of the industry insiders because they just didn't want to deal with the trolls.  

I would have killed to have the opportunity to host a forum that was populated industry insiders. Only a successful independent journalist (like Tom Chick who is both) could realistically do it.  But having a bunch of successful people in your community attracts the losers who think they can feel better about themselves by tearing someone else down.

Empathy is a pre-requisite for running a company. When the crazies from the politics and religion forum on Qt3 curb-stomped my book (Elemental: Destiny's Embers) on Amazon, I understood what motivated them to do it - most trolls get angry at seeing people do things that they themselves wanted to do but didn't/couldn't do. They usually rationalize why they didn't/couldn't do something and lash out.  Hence, when some novice author like me gets his book published by Random House, that pisses these guys off and they lash out (this isn't to say I wrote a masterpiece but it's not a 1 star book either). 

Like others have said, trolls want attention but more than that, they want validation. They want to feel better about themselves by making someone else feel a little worse. And we don't do ourselves any favors by denying reality - they succeed. Trolling gets worse every year because deep down, everyone knows that trolls do successfully piss off people all the time.

Nothing attracts a troll like the perception of someone doing something that someone else (the troll) thinks they could have done better if only they had had the chance/opportunity/money/time to do. Trolling is how losers try to get revenge on the world. If they can win the Internets they can forget, for a moment, their own miserable day to day lives. 

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February 28, 2013 10:17:28 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
Trolling is how losers try to get revenge on the world. If they can win the Internets they can forget, for a moment, their own miserable day to day lives.

Not to just talk about our little space here. But the news sites on their comments section, it's like a full flaming war that it gets off topic very quickly. Oh, I don't want to talk about other sites I go to like AICN, IGN and CBM...But yeah, not here but at other sites, I believe what you say could be true...

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February 28, 2013 11:09:58 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting G_Bison,
But yeah, not here but at other sites, I believe what you say could be true...

Oh, it's true right enough...and left un-policed would be here, too.

Trolling [and its associated effluvium] is like littering....or grafitti.  Left unchecked/uncleaned...it attracts more.

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February 28, 2013 11:17:37 PM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Quoting Jafo,


Quoting G_Bison, reply 33But yeah, not here but at other sites, I believe what you say could be true...

Oh, it's true right enough...and left un-policed would be here, too.

Trolling [and its associated effluvium] is like littering....or grafitti.  Left unchecked/uncleaned...it attracts more.

Indeed. There's nothing inherently magical about our forums other than Jafo, Kyro, myself and others don't faint when we get called brown shirts for taking out the riff raff.

Even Neowin, which has pretty good moderation, has a pretty high troll level (still good compared to most sites but compared to here).  The trolls, however, would say our community is a bunch of fanboys who suck up out of fear the moderator-gestapo.

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February 28, 2013 11:41:29 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
The trolls, however, would say our community is a bunch of fanboys who suck up out of fear the moderator-gestapo.

Oh, there are plenty still around on Stardock's forums who are by definition more 'troll' than 'fanboy' but it's all about the HOW they opine more-so than the what.

With a little reasoning [micro-management] even people uber-critical of Stardock can be tolerable.   It's only ever an issue when mindless trolls actually affirm how mindless they really are...and THAT's just plain sad...

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March 1, 2013 12:42:29 AM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Here is a good example of a run-of-the-mill troll. Probably around 15 to 17 years old. Mostly harmless.  Still a jerk.

http://www.neowin.net/forum/topic/1135898-new-deskscapes-8-beta-for-windows-8/page__p__595550766#entry595550766

 

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March 1, 2013 4:18:11 AM from JoeUser Forums JoeUser Forums

They must be stopped by any means necessary. There will be no survivors, no prisoners of war!

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March 1, 2013 6:58:32 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Frogboy,
Here is a good example of a run-of-the-mill troll. Probably around 15 to 17 years old. Mostly harmless.  Still a jerk.
 

the "ad bot" was offensive but which other post was trolling, guess I don't get it?

curious question: what's the difference between trolling and posting a different/opposing/disagreeable opinion?

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March 2, 2013 10:07:49 AM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Quoting gmc2,


Quoting Frogboy, reply 37Here is a good example of a run-of-the-mill troll. Probably around 15 to 17 years old. Mostly harmless.  Still a jerk.
 


the "ad bot" was offensive but which other post was trolling, guess I don't get it?

curious question: what's the difference between trolling and posting a different/opposing/disagreeable opinion?

Trolling is the act of posting something obnoxious in the hopes of annoying someone or getting negative attention.

if you really don't understand the difference, try imagining the participants of a thread talking in person. if someone says something that in real life would likely get them flicked on the back of the head, they're trolling.

So if a group of people were discussing a new program and one person makes a loud exaggerated yawning noise I suspect that would not be considered an "opposing opinion" but rather an obnoxious, rude display.

 

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March 2, 2013 11:39:45 AM from Stardock Forums Stardock Forums

From my experience you can always challenge them to start modding their own.  Too often the young majority treats the mod scene as a free arcade and troll about the finished product.  This is despite all the tiring, non profit effort put into it by individuals who only want to create something.  They need a taste of their own medicine to grow up.  Thick skin is a requirement.

 

Do niche markets have higher troll ratios or less?  I haven't met that many trolls on Civfanatics.com for example.

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March 2, 2013 6:27:45 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting RogueCaptain,
Do niche markets have higher troll ratios or less? I haven't met that many trolls on Civfanatics.com for example.

I think trolls need a reasonable sized target audience to bait.  They cannot survive in a vaccuum...and like most animals of low intelligence are in peril of forgetting to breathe in rarified atmosphere....[ah, metaphors...ya gotta love 'em]...

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March 2, 2013 7:04:08 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Trolls tend to be like viruses and go where the most people are. The most I encounter are on youtube comments, and yes, usually about politics. I don't use, but I hear facebook and twitter are real bad as well. Trolls may not be as retarded as some think, they can actually quite often make people stop posting there views on a subject of importance which only leaves a one sided view.

I have yet to see any trolls in the Sins m0d scene, the worst I had was asking for stuff we will not put in or the constant "when is the nest release coming".

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March 3, 2013 6:49:47 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Thankfully the astronomy forum I'm a mod on is troll free. Anyone trolling is just banned without warning. There's also a decent swear filter, and, substitutions such as WTF and **** are removed by mods. Persistant offenders who have an attitude (sarcy posters etc) are warned and put on moderated posts. Anyone being 'nasty' to others is gone pronto. The mods are constantly discussing members who are 'on the radar' to make sure they are watched and a concensus is reached should their future be in doubt.

There are several 'reason' selections available to go with the ban button. One useful one is the spam selection; that gets rid of the individual and all their posts - saves a lot of manual spam removal

Yes, the moderation is firm, but what we are left with is a highly active and pleasant forum where people can talk astronomy freely and without fear of being put down by others.

Is it active? Well, the oldest forum post here (sites combined) on recent posts is March 1st at 0:10. On the astronomy forum the oldest post is... 12 minutes ago...

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March 3, 2013 8:16:06 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting Fuzzy Logic,
Is it active? Well, the oldest forum post here (sites combined) on recent posts is March 1st at 0:10. On the astronomy forum the oldest post is... 12 minutes ago...

Do you mean Authored thread [op] or comment...because since march 1 I've probably done a hundred myself....

It looks like your Forum is even tighter than here....though we do have a 'wipe-out-people-totally' button that removes EVERYTHING ....but we're all too chicken to use it.  [don't tell anyone but I tidied up after a spammer with it once - but I think I got away with it]...

As you know with 'moderation' the phrase is....'moderation in all things' [and that includes moderation]...

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March 3, 2013 10:03:53 AM from Little Tiny Frogs Forums Little Tiny Frogs Forums

Have to defend the honor of our forums. fuzzy, you're posting from wincustomize which has only a small subset of all forums. On littletinyfrogs, which also only has a snmall subset the oldest response is 2 hours old. Ii the collective forum network we have gets millions of unique visitors per month. My point be that these forums are hardly niche.

i don't think forum popularity is a significant factor in troll problems.

we don't have much problem with trolling here because trolling is a problem that takes time to spread. The worst forums (somethingawful or brokenforum) tend to be made up by people who've been banned from elsewhere And trolling is encouraged. They're like the war boards from BBS days. 

Places where trolls aren't tolerated wont get that critical mass of them. you can have a popular site where trolls run wild and free and you can have a popular site where trolls are banished.  The main difference being the quality of discussion.

 

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March 3, 2013 11:20:24 AM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

My view is this: I don't tollerate people like this in my personal life, they are not tollerated in my workplace, so why should I tollerate them on the internet? Just because someone is attached to a computer doesn't mean they have to forget about politeness and good manners. If a site is over-run by trolls, I just don't go there.

I restrict my internet access therefore to those sites where I feel most comfortable. I'm still here 11 years on

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March 3, 2013 9:12:57 PM from GalCiv II Forums GalCiv II Forums

Political trolls are the worst.  Especially on Twitter.

For example, jumping on a bandwagon to say how against something you are, when you don't even live in said country any more and it says so in your profile?  Totally trolling.

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March 3, 2013 9:22:38 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

As a resident troll of the Sins forums (and a troll in real life), I'd like to offer some perspective on the issue...

I always see the same "logic" applied to trolling...trolls are losers, attention whores, people with no life...they just want to anger people, piss them off, get a rise out of people they never could in real life...trolls can be starved if you simply ignore them, because after all if you aren't giving them attention and aren't getting angry then obviously their trolling has failed...

But that's not really how all trolls are...some are, yes, but not all...


First off, sometimes there is a "misdiagnosis" of trolling...

A great example would be a lot of the anti-Starclad posts/threads/comments made during and since the Rebellion beta/release (I will stress that I am merely using this as an example)...

Some people were "true trolls"...they would post comments or start threads with the intent of getting a rise out of the developers...the key thing here is their intent...they genuinely wanted to piss off the devs or just throw shit around because it made them feel better about themselves...

There was another group of people though that genuinely had criticism against Starclad and certain decisions it made in regards to Rebellion...were they sometimes nasty?  YES.  Were they sometimes inappropriate?  YES...

But the key is that their intention was not to just piss people off...they had gripes about the game, and wanted to discuss them...they were genuine gripes, not genuine in that they were "correct" but genuine in that they really felt Starclad could have done things better...some of it was vented frustration due to perceived problems in a game they otherwise loved, and anyone when frustrated can of course be prone to ranting, nastiness, and the like...

The bottom line is that there is a huge difference between someone saying nasty things and someone being a troll...that is why I have a problem with defining a troll as someone who is rude, nasty, or angers other people...sure, someone may say something that is nasty and does anger you, but it doesn't make them a troll...they may just have a very different perspective, very different opinion, and aren't exactly "confined" to social norms like courtesy, tact, and respect....


Second, not all trolls want to anger or piss off people...some trolls just want to entertain, either entertain themselves or entertain others...of course, that means there are also trolls that want to both anger and entertain other people...

Not going to mention any names, but there are quite a few people on these forums that get positive feedback and/or karma for "funny" trolling...now, their trolling may be nasty or mean...it may even anger someone...but it also may be funny, maybe not to the devs or moderators, but to someone out there...in many of these cases, the troll really could care less about angering someone or getting a rise...all they really want is to say something funny and have other people think it is funny...that it may be mean, nasty, or inappropriate is either a coincidence or simply a "mean to an end"...

It's easy to say "well we aren't really talking about those trolls, the ones that are just clowns"...but the problem is that a "clown troll" may genuinely believe their insult or nastiness is obvious trolling, obviously sarcastic, obviously just for shits and giggles....and when the other person does get mad, the troll doesn't think "YES I pissed them off" but rather "don't they know I'm just trolling them????"...

Sometimes, trolls (especially those that live and interact every day with other trolls) just assume other people think like they do...it's not a matter of "thick skin", but a matter of simply understanding that "it's just trolling"...


Third, not all trolls are losers with no life....some trolls like to write and be witty...some trolls come on to these forums for "productive" or "legit" reasons but occasionally come across an opportunity to troll that's just too hard to pass up...

It's usually obvious to me which trolls really have no life and which trolls do have a life but also just enjoy trolling...I've learned though that most people do not readily distinguish between the two...

Sometimes it is easy to look at a troll post and immediately think "that person has no life, they must just spend all their time getting on the net and doing nothing but trolling"...but if someone spends an hour everyday posting "legit" and "productive" posts on a forum (like certain moderators obviously do), then magically they are just seen as normal....

The point is that it doesn't actually take that long to make a lot of troll posts...in fact, most trolls are probably spending far less time posting than the serious forum warriors are, so don't readily assume they "have no life" because odds are they spend less time off the forums than you do....

And if you think "but the trolls are just wasting time while the serious posters are being productive", then ask yourself this: how much time do you spend watching TV?  How much time do you spend playing games on your PC or phone?  Cause every minute you do is another minute of being just as unproductive as the troll writing his troll forum post...and as a troll, I can tell you that I troll in place of other time-wasting, unproductive sorts of entertainment that "normal people" do for hours every day....

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March 3, 2013 9:26:46 PM from WinCustomize Forums WinCustomize Forums

Quoting MarvinKosh,
For example, jumping on a bandwagon to say how against something you are, when you don't even live in said country any more and it says so in your profile? Totally trolling.

Nope, not 'trolling'.  To voice an opinion re a country...as an outsider is legitimate...and if it's on a 'bandwagon' of common opinion it's just that - common.

Trolling is more accurately a fatuous comment with no other purpose than to incite adversarial response.

In reality trolls are about as easy to spot as spammers....and we just don't have too many of them around these here parts... [note to self...stop using American slang].

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