A few notes on professional troll campaigns.
It’s no longer enough to talk about trolls and trolling in the abstract. We have a collective blind spot and need to pay closer attention to the threat of having social media spaces manipulated.
Social media spaces are easily colonized and destabilized by pro trolls who’ve been trained. Some posts are planned and constructed; they’re designed and created as a performance to elicit a certain outcome. There’s a science behind pro trolling. Once you recognize the techniques and understand the strategy, spotting them becomes easy. Delete them right away, don’t fall for the ‘freedom of speech’ gag order, hateful and ugly speech is central to pro trolling.
When a new member comes out swinging, that’s a caution flag.
Example. The new member has a name that is generic white male. The new member posts a discussion topic with a headline that makes it stand out. Maybe the font is large, the message is dumbed-down and the poster wants people to weigh in on a very contentious subject—racism, for example—any hot button topic that will generate interest and controversy. The goal of the post is to snag some real racists, then add more fake racists in order to create the evidence needed so the site/article can be vilified and discredited.
A post will seem like an injection of poison, because that’s exactly what it is.
Once the post is up, the pro trolls will get to work. Several will work one thread and if the attack is severe they will completely swamp the thread. They seed the conversation with extreme views, they post inflammatory hate-filled posts. Pro troll comments are often filled with ALL CAPS and lots of exclamation marks!!!!! Their role is to jack up adrenaline and stoke tensions.
It’s like building a bonfire, they mix and mingle and add their extreme comments in order to build confusion and conflict in the minds of the unsuspecting who are reading and watching in horror as their once-good site becomes awful and degraded. Another goal accomplished: demoralization and doubt; momentum is lost and people cease their support.
There will be pro trolls whose job it is to loudly accuse the site of being evil, awful and bad.
And it appears they are right, the evidence is right there in the comments—and often those comments were made by the pro troll team. And shortly thereafter media outlets pronounce your site/article as crazy, fringe, and retrograde. Mission accomplished.
Pro troll performances disappear as quickly as they arrive. After they’re gone, your cheeks burn, you feel like you should pat down all your pockets to make sure you still have your valuables. Everything on your site goes back to being quiet and civil, the usual normal range of discussion. But the damage is done.
It’s time to recognize that pro trolling has become a tactical standard of attack, for better or worse, and it’s time that the media developed an awareness of this in all of their reportage.