Saturday, February 02, 2008

On Trolling for Internet Trolls: A Primer

Internet trolls are a well-known hazard in online discussion forums. They also make appearances as blog commenters. While Baha'is who frequent forums may be familiar with the troll phenomenon, It may be helpful for Baha'is attempting to promote the Faith on their blogs to be able to recognize the Internet troll as blog commenter. But first, a troll picture that, if not flattering, evokes a bit of sympathy, don't you think? If the troll was hungry, would you feed him? -gw
An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, with the intention of baiting other users into an emotional response. ...

Donath's paper outlines the ambiguity of identity in a disembodied "virtual community":[8]

In the physical world there is an inherent unity to the self, for the body provides a compelling and convenient definition of identity. The norm is: one body, one identity. ... The virtual world is different. It is composed of information rather than matter.

Donath provides a concise overview of identity deception games which trade on the confusion between physical and epistemic community:

Trolling is a game about identity deception, albeit one that is played without the consent of most of the players. The troll attempts to pass as a legitimate participant, sharing the group's common interests and concerns. ... Donath, 1999, p. 45)[2]

The term troll is highly subjective. Some readers may characterize a post as trolling, while others may regard the same post as a legitimate contribution to the discussion, even if controversial. The term is often erroneously used to discredit an opposing position, or its proponent, by argument fallacy ad hominem.

Often, calling someone a troll makes assumptions about a writer's motives. Regardless of the circumstances, controversial posts may attract a particularly strong response from those unfamiliar with the robust dialogue found in some online, rather than physical, communities. Experienced participants in online forums know that the most effective way to discourage a troll is usually to ignore him or her, because responding encourages a true troll to continue disruptive posts — hence the often-seen warning "Please do not feed the troll".

Frequently, someone who has been labelled a troll by a group may seek to redeem their reputation by discrediting their opponents, for example by claiming that other members of the group are closed-minded, conspirators, or trolls themselves.

A concern troll is a pseudonym created by a user whose point of view is opposed to the one that the user's sockpuppet claims to hold. The concern troll posts in web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group's actions or opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed "concerns". The goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group.[9]

Suffice it to say, as trolling requires deceit and has as its purpose fomenting discord, and deceit and discord are both contrary to the standards that Baha'u'llah calls upon his followers to adhere to, a Baha'i cannot in good conscience be an Internet troll. -gw


Marco said...

A couple of years ago I had a troll. A Portuguese guy who had been to Iran once and pretended to be anti-baha'i.
In a way having a troll is a sign of visibility of a blog.

George Wesley Dannells said...

Yes, Marco, there is a certain badge of honor that one can wear if one is being visited by trolls, just as there is a certain distinction to being villified by the enemies of the Faith.

Duke Webelos said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.