Why good people become bad online trolls

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cjmacie
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Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by cjmacie » Sun May 07, 2017 10:51 am

.
The title here comes from a review (http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/02/07/w ... ad-trolls/) of the following recently reported study:

Title: Anyone Can Become a Troll: Causes of Trolling Behavior in Online Discussions

Authors: Justin Cheng, Michael Bernstein, Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Jure Leskovec
(Submitted on 3 Feb 2017 [or presentation at a computer-science meeting])

Abstract: In online communities, antisocial behavior such as trolling disrupts constructive discussion.
While prior work suggests that trolling behavior is confined to a vocal and antisocial minority, we
demonstrate that ordinary people can engage in such behavior as well. We propose two primary trigger
mechanisms: the individual's mood, and the surrounding context of a discussion (e.g., exposure to
prior trolling behavior). Through an experiment simulating an online discussion, we find that both
negative mood and seeing troll posts by others significantly increases the probability of a user trolling,
and together double this probability. To support and extend these results, we study how these same
mechanisms play out in the wild via a data-driven, longitudinal analysis of a large online news
discussion community. This analysis reveals temporal mood effects, and explores long range patterns
of repeated exposure to trolling. A predictive model of trolling behavior shows that mood and
discussion context together can explain trolling behavior better than an individual's history of trolling.
These results combine to suggest that ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, behave like
trolls.

The full paper is at:
https://arxiv.org/pdf/1702.01119.pdf
or, in Ebook format, at:
https://files.clr3.com/papers/2017_anyone.pdf

Several of the many on-line reviews of the study also elucidate the problem well, and some consider possible solutions.

(The "Suggestion" here is that the findings of this study -- not all of it new, but some surprising -- might suggest ways to moderate (that is, reduce) unproductive excesses which discussions here s/t fall into.)

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Sam Vara
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by Sam Vara » Sun May 07, 2017 1:17 pm

cjmacie wrote:...
Many thanks, cjm, that looks like an interesting paper. I haven't read more than the article and the abstract, but it makes a lot of sense. I think we need to make a clear distinction between two types of individuals: the person who expounds what they don't believe in, purely to get some gratification from the mayhem they can cause; and the person who is being difficult and disruptive. The article deals with the second type, I believe.

The idea of "mood" is particularly suggestive. We start with a bad mood, and this is picked up and criticised by others, which puts us into a worse mood, and so on...

Here on DW we have, at least in theory, a way to short-circuit that process. It would be interesting to see whether forums which mainly deal in discussion between co-religionists are in general less prone to such behaviour than average. Most religions have built-in mechanisms governing how we deal with others.

Again, thank you.

binocular
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by binocular » Sun May 07, 2017 3:50 pm

Sam Vara wrote:Here on DW we have, at least in theory, a way to short-circuit that process. It would be interesting to see whether forums which mainly deal in discussion between co-religionists are in general less prone to such behaviour than average. Most religions have built-in mechanisms governing how we deal with others.
Most religions also seem to have a hidden curriculum -- the unspoken, unwritten rules of thinking and behaving, but it is those rules that actually matter, not the written ones. The officially stated rules for how to deal with others are more "for show," than to be actually applied.

A covertly authoritarian social system is, I suspect, more conducive to trolling than an overtly authoritarian one or a democratic one.

On the whole, I think people troll because they resent the unfairness and the power games that take place in a covertly authoritarian social system.
Sam Vara wrote:I think we need to make a clear distinction between two types of individuals: the person who expounds what they don't believe in, purely to get some gratification from the mayhem they can cause; and the person who is being difficult and disruptive.
What a strange, even if common, theory of trolling ...
While trolls generally don't measure up to a Hans Kohlhase, I think what drives trolling is something similar: seeking redress for a wrongdoing; both the original wrongdoing, as well as for the wrongdoing of the authorities who side with the wrongdoer.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by Sam Vara » Sun May 07, 2017 5:43 pm

binocular wrote:On the whole, I think people troll because they resent the unfairness and the power games that take place in a covertly authoritarian social system.
That may well be so; it certainly sounds plausible. We are in any case extremely fortunate to know what to do with that resentment, and how to guard against it:
It's impossible, there is no way that — when appreciation has been developed, pursued, handed the reins and taken as a basis, given a grounding, steadied, consolidated, and well-undertaken as an awareness-release — resentment would still keep overpowering the mind. That possibility doesn't exist, for this is the escape from resentment: appreciation as an awareness-release.'
What a strange, even if common, theory of trolling ...
I'm not attempting to present a theory, binocular. Just differentiating between two different types of trolling.

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cjmacie
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by cjmacie » Sun May 07, 2017 11:45 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
cjmacie wrote:...
...Here on DW we have, at least in theory, a way to short-circuit that process...
What is this "way to short-circuit that process"?

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Sam Vara
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by Sam Vara » Mon May 08, 2017 7:05 am

cjmacie wrote: What is this "way to short-circuit that process"?
I should perhaps have said a whole raft of ways. One of them is outlined in my response to binocular above. We have to hand a number of different techniques and reminders which - if we are willing - prevent us as "good people" from becoming "bad online trolls". Mindfulness, calm, appreciation, compassion, heedfulness, the precept regarding right speech, etc., etc.

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Sovatthika
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by Sovatthika » Thu Jul 13, 2017 1:00 am

i like to troll mahayanists but i don't think that interest is completely wholesome
namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

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Maitri
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by Maitri » Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:40 am

Go ask /pol. I'm sure they will answer directly if you want to know why. Where best to get the reason than from the belly of the beast?
Many people writing these abstracts have no idea what they are talking about. The quoted article is a prime example.
These results combine to suggest that ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, behave like
trolls.
Topkek
"Upon a heap of rubbish in the road-side ditch blooms a lotus, fragrant and pleasing.
Even so, on the rubbish heap of blinded mortals the disciple of the Supremely Enlightened One shines resplendent in wisdom." Dhammapada: Pupphavagga

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/

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cjmacie
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by cjmacie » Thu Jul 13, 2017 5:50 am

Maitri wrote:Go ask /pol. I'm sure they will answer directly if you want to know why. Where best to get the reason than from the belly of the beast?
Many people writing these abstracts have no idea what they are talking about. The quoted article is a prime example.
These results combine to suggest that ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, behave like
trolls.
Topkek
Where's the refutation? Ordinary people as well as inveterate trolls can behave so -- as in this case, which ever the case it may be. :P

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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by ieee23 » Thu Jul 13, 2017 9:12 am

cjmacie wrote:.
we demonstrate that ordinary people can engage in such behavior as well. We propose two primary trigger
mechanisms: the individual's mood, and the surrounding context of a discussion (e.g., exposure to
prior trolling behavior). Through an experiment simulating an online discussion, we find that both
negative mood and seeing troll posts by others significantly increases the probability of a user trolling,
and together double this probability.
Sounds like the "broken window theory" for vandalism.

Also sounds like a good justification for posting well, as your posting habits will help change the environment you post in.

binocular
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by binocular » Thu Jul 13, 2017 4:09 pm

cjmacie wrote:Why good people become bad online trolls
Just out of curiosity: What would be a good online troll?

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Maitri
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by Maitri » Fri Jul 14, 2017 1:25 am

binocular wrote:
cjmacie wrote:Why good people become bad online trolls
Just out of curiosity: What would be a good online troll?
This gets to the heart of it. Why are we assuming that they are good people? Maybe they are just normal people who like to heckle? There are lots of assholes in the world, but most trolling behavior has to do with society's suppression of speech and impulses in everyday society.

Some trolling is done for comedic value such as Ken M.

Image
"Upon a heap of rubbish in the road-side ditch blooms a lotus, fragrant and pleasing.
Even so, on the rubbish heap of blinded mortals the disciple of the Supremely Enlightened One shines resplendent in wisdom." Dhammapada: Pupphavagga

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/

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Maitri
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by Maitri » Fri Jul 14, 2017 1:30 am

cjmacie wrote:
Maitri wrote:Go ask /pol. I'm sure they will answer directly if you want to know why. Where best to get the reason than from the belly of the beast?
Many people writing these abstracts have no idea what they are talking about. The quoted article is a prime example.
These results combine to suggest that ordinary people can, under the right circumstances, behave like
trolls.
Topkek
Where's the refutation? Ordinary people as well as inveterate trolls can behave so -- as in this case, which ever the case it may be. :P
There are multiple types of trolls. Idiots can be trolls and not realize it. People trying to troll and fail at trolling. Trolls are ordinary people behaving with anonymity. The researcher thinks there is some deep seated reason for people behaving this way. Is anyone surprised that people like to goad and give others a hard time? The more people demand the use of "safe spaces" and "trigger warnings" the more lulz can be had in provoking a response.
"Upon a heap of rubbish in the road-side ditch blooms a lotus, fragrant and pleasing.
Even so, on the rubbish heap of blinded mortals the disciple of the Supremely Enlightened One shines resplendent in wisdom." Dhammapada: Pupphavagga

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/

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retrofuturist
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Jul 14, 2017 2:45 am

Greetings,
Maitri wrote:The more people demand the use of "safe spaces" and "trigger warnings" the more lulz can be had in provoking a response.
I think this is getting close to the mark, but more fundamentally what you see at /pol/ and in other comparable settings is a counter-cultural reaction to the soft totalitarianism of political correctness, and the identity politics that it shields.

One faction counters identity politics by attacking the premise of identity politics itself, often through the art of mockery and in highlighting its logical inconsistencies and disastrous consequences... something /pol/ and folks like Paul Joseph Watson and Milo Yiannopoulos are adept at. This video gives an interesting overview of how absurdity is used as a means (or should that be memes?) to provoke and highlight the inconsistencies and over-sensitivities inherent in PC culture...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpVGmi5Sbek

Yet then, there's a second faction that thinks "well, if progressives are going to force us into the sphere of identity politics, I'm going to fight for my side, just like they're fighting for theirs". These two factions are very different ideologically, but some people try to deliberately conflate them in order to paint the first faction as extremists.

The first faction (aka "civic nationalism", aka "Alt-Light", aka "New Right") is, I think, actually very useful as a movement to de-legitimise and defuse the destructive and divisive model of identity politics known as "critical theory" that creates so much conflict, division and mutual distrust in the 21st century. The second faction (aka "Alt-Right") represents an unfortunate mirror reaction to what they perceive as an orchestrated program of white genocide.

The following article does a good job as differentiating between the two: The Alt-Right Branding War Has Torn the Movement in Two.
In January, when I met Gavin McInnes, the founder of a “pro-Western fraternal organization” called the Proud Boys, I asked whether I should refer to him as alt-right. “Nope,” he said, swigging from a can of Budweiser. “They care about the white race. We care about Western values.” This is a view that has come to be known as “civic nationalism,” as opposed to white nationalism—or “alt-light,” as opposed to alt-right.
As highlighted by his recent speech in Poland, Donald Trump would be a "civic nationalist" - one who is anti-globalist, promotes Western values, but does so without recourse to race.

Either way, the use of the term "trolls" as a catch-all definition for "anyone who disagrees with me online", is falling apart in real-time. Even those I outline above do not have shared motivation, methods, ideologies or intentions, let alone anyone else, hence why Maitri's point about directly asking people their motivations, rather than inferring them based upon personal prejudices is probably a wise move.

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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cjmacie
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by cjmacie » Fri Jul 14, 2017 2:58 am

binocular wrote:
cjmacie wrote:Why good people become bad online trolls
Just out of curiosity: What would be a good online troll?
Good question.

Perhaps along the lines of an observation I saw once in a discussion of "Gamer-gate" scandal (handling on-line abuse of women players), to the effect that "moderating" (i.e. discussion groups) can be seen as a form of "trolling".

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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by aflatun » Fri Jul 14, 2017 4:49 am

I work in a field with a tremendous volume of face to face interaction and email interaction. I often encounter people who are combative, insulting and obnoxious on email who are quite meek and passive in person. Perhaps this is related. In any event its very entertaining. :tongue:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by chownah » Fri Jul 14, 2017 6:06 am

Trolling is fun! Like aflatun says, it is entertaining.
chownah

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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Jul 14, 2017 6:57 am

Greetings,
cjmacie wrote:"Gamer-gate" scandal (handling on-line abuse of women players)
That's not at all what Gamergate was about.

Gamergate occurred because third-wave feminists like Anita Sarkeesian were objecting to the representations of women in computer games... either in terms of under-representation, or in terms of their one-dimensionality. That concern was then met with a counter-concern about the humourless way in which political correctness and cultural policing was strangling computer gaming, and more broadly, art and literature in general.

In a lot of ways, this battle between cultural libertarianism and cultural authoritarianism was the precursor of what things to come...

Metta,
Paul. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

binocular
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by binocular » Fri Jul 14, 2017 7:11 am

Maitri wrote:Why are we assuming that they are good people? Maybe they are just normal people who like to heckle?
Consider the "official" interpretation of the Milgram experiment or the Standford prison experiment: the "official" interpretation goes along the lines that it is under threat of authority that people do nasty things; that it is under the threat of authority that good, normal people can turn into sadists.
A social or cultural scientist from before the age of the Enlightenment (or the 1960's) would probably think quite differently!
Maitri wrote:Is anyone surprised that people like to goad and give others a hard time?
Yes: hippies.
(And the offical interpretation of the Milgram experiment probably reflects the values of the hippie culture.)
There are lots of assholes in the world, but most trolling behavior has to do with society's suppression of speech and impulses in everyday society.
Well, if we look at things from the perspective of a medieval religious scholar or social/cultural scientists of that time, then we'd say that people are just prone to be bad, that it comes naturally.
In fact, if we embrace the Theory of Evolution, then Social Darwinism, in whatever form it may manifest, is something we must embrace too.

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cjmacie
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Re: Why good people become bad online trolls

Post by cjmacie » Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:39 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,
cjmacie wrote:"Gamer-gate" scandal (handling on-line abuse of women players)
That's not at all what Gamergate was about.

Gamergate occurred because third-wave feminists like Anita Sarkeesian were objecting to the representations of women in computer games... either in terms of under-representation, or in terms of their one-dimensionality. That concern was then met with a counter-concern about the humourless way in which political correctness and cultural policing was strangling computer gaming, and more broadly, art and literature in general.

In a lot of ways, this battle between cultural libertarianism and cultural authoritarianism was the precursor of what things to come...
Thank you for correcting my reference to the circumstances surrounding Gamergate...which just happens to fit in with one your pet peeves...

And thank you for the vivid demonstration of the relationship between moderation and trolling :thanks:

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