Weeding Out the Online Trolls

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Cornell University has recently conducted research with an A.I. they built to detect the early warning signs of disregarded civility and politeness. These signs are then flagged in an effort to showcase their toxicity. This is so others are less prone to follow the example set by those inclined to use slurs and expletives as a retort.

This is a tool that many social media giants, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and a myriad of others would see as a lucrative or beneficial device. It can generate increased traffic to their sites without the general distaste, fear of being personally attacked through their digital screens with death threats, or having personal information being leaked.

As mentioned by Shanika Gunaratna in “Peering Into the Psychology of Online Trolls,” researchers who are studying the mindset of online trolls find them showing, “higher levels of trait psychopathy and sadism, as well as lower levels of affective empathy.” The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

One of the consequences of being the target of an online troll can be having personal information leaked. This information can range from an address, full name, and possibly a cell phone number.

For the most part, the internet can be a wonderful place where people can share and discuss ideas and opinions. The internet connects individuals who are hundreds, even thousands of miles away. Since the advent of globalization, it has made the sharing of information easier yet malevolent as well.

Trolls, or the people who deliberately instigate a feud, are not inherently filled with malice. Instead, some are simply motivated to joke around with someone’s beliefs and opinions in any way they can, simply because they can.

Anonymity has made the sharing of potentially dangerous information, ideas, and opinions safe for many, especially journalists when penning an article that can jeopardize their lives. Then, there are those who desire to witness a celebrity or noted figure break-down emotionally through the internet, knowing they are the ones who pushed them over the edge.

An example of this is the online Twitter attack on American actress Leslie Jones. She was the the target of racially driven hateful comments, following the release of the all-female “Ghostbusters” reboot. She had her personal account hacked and her passport and ID picture leaked.

A few notable figures had their accounts banned for hate speech, such as Milo Yiannopoulos for mentioning that Jones was impossible to comprehend. However, many came to her defense showcasing solidarity, such as Hillary Clinton, Anna Kendrick, and Loni Love.

Some have been the victim of online trolls, but nothing on the range of having information leaked. They simply received hateful messages from other players in a video game often played. From an experienced person, and many others that are tolerable or choose to not add fuel to the fire, the best method of dealing with an internet troll is to ignore them. Do not even humor them unless prepared for whatever retort they will throw in return.

Written by Juan Ayala
Edited by J. Smith and K. Spinney


CBS News: Peering into the psychology of online trolls
Life Wire: Internet Trolling: How Do You Spot a Real Troll?
Axios: Researchers seek early warnings of online nastiness

Top Image Courtesy of vil.sandi’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Featured Image Courtesy of Jenn’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License



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