Trolls 101 — Disrupt their disruption

Notes from the trenches of social media. 

Advocate for the kind of cyber space you want.

Set the standard yourself, don’t wait for someone else to do it.

Familiarize yourself with the culture of 4chan and other sites where anonymous comment culture thrives. Go there and spend some time. This helps with identifying the way these groups function, their code of conduct, what motivates them, what their particular ticks are, which includes:

Disruption for the sake of disruption.

Adherence to hive mind and a commitment to non-hierarchical anarchy.

Harsh, spare-no-feelings culture.

NYPA. Not your personal army. A common refrain when someone tries to enlist   the hive mind. (Take note, Jordan Peterson, being overly-enamored by a bit of croaking from the frog army is likely a smokescreen.)

Anonymous trolls are always a mix of local, national and international and are fairly easy to differentiate.

Don’t assume anything about trolls, they’re comprised of all kinds of people from all strata of society.

Teenage trolls are easy to spot and easy to rebuff. Their style is generally the one-liner attack because most of them are used to online engagement that involves only writing one word, one phrase, or one line at a time.

Personal attack and fake outrage are the troll’s stock in trade.

It’s fairly easy to mess with their heads. Disrupt their disruption.

Do experiments. Post a comment that’s passionately in support of one side of a polarized argument and watch the pile-on. This serves a couple of purposes: pulls the agitators away from real discussion, identifies repeat posters, shows the percentage of trolls at work.

Foreign trolls give themselves away by the off-sounding English. Grammar is lacking and the comment looks odd—it’s been put through Google translate, which does a terrible job.

Tell them you’re conducting an experiment. Tell them your “team has been hired to gather names”. Get creative and sound authoritative.

Lie to foreign trolls so they’ll doubt themselves. Use all caps and tell them that doing so alerts Admin to a problem for investigation.

Reply to trolls. Ask them if they are getting minimum wage. Ask them if they’re being paid by the post. Make fun of their fake name if it’s something stupid, offensive or immature—like ‘Rams Herhard’.

Push back with force. Scathing humour trumps almost everything. Wit is respected. Appealing to niceness, manners or their better nature will only elicit derision and anger.

Foreign players whose first language is not English have difficulty holding up their position and will rarely reply back.

Becoming more troll-savvy has important implications during elections where the fight for control of narrative is becoming fierce. Last month’s New Yorker magazine (February issue) contains an in-depth report about how troll culture is being copied, refined and weaponized. Check it out: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/02/18/private-mossad-for-hire

Last but not least. Any news organizations who are manipulating the current mysteries of social media must stop now. I’ve noticed that one particular news outlet was inundated with an army of nasty trolls over a period of several weeks. But the other news outlets of similar heft/import did not have the problem. Then, lo and behold, this news outlet tried to float the idea that because trolls were such a huge problem on their site it was time to change their comment rules and everyone would have to sign in/sign up. The initiative didn’t float and, voila, the army of nasty trolls disappeared. Hard to say what exactly was going on, but let’s go out on a limb: news outlets absolutely must not play the data mining game.

 

 

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There’s no point in confusing the little people, keep the stories simple! They have been well trained in loss and revenge so be sure to hammer home any losses on our side. Ignore casualties on the other side, it’s best to pretend there aren’t any. Encourage simplistic thinking, the only two protagonists allowed are Us and Them. There’s a fringe movement of lunatics suggesting the equation ought to be We = Us + Them but that is dangerously naïve.

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I Love the CBC. But.

Since I spend so much time with the CBC it seems appropriate that it’s the subject of my inaugural post.
On CBC Radio One, Anna Maria Tremonti and The Current, Eleanor Wachtel and Writers and Company, Nora Young’s Spark, Rex Murphy on Cross Country Check-up, and too many others to list. And I love documentaries, for which this country is world renowned: The Fifth Estate, the Nature of Things, Doc Zone and The Passionate Eye. And the foreign correspondents: Melissa Fung, Sasa Petricic, Neil MacDonald and Adrienne Arsenault. Too many incredible people to list. All smart, articulate, and dedicated who inform, educate, entertain and make me feel good and proud to be a Canadian.
Some hosts become like family and when they pass I grieve. When Peter Gzowski died, I cried and moped around for days. I still miss his smoky voice and laughter. And Barbara Frum on As it Happens, I still miss her, too.
I even love Peter Mansbridge, though a bit like a grandfather who can be out of step. For example, he recently used the term “visible minorities” when describing the absence of people of colour in this year’s line-up of Oscar contenders. I cringed, then fired off a protest email to the National. He has used this phrase before. So: Dear Mr. Dinosaur, there’s no “visible minority”, at best this is an offensive fiction which gets perpetuated by white people with glaring racial blind spots, not to mention delusions of an “invisible majority”.

And what’s with the editorial staff on the national news allowing this to be aired? Is the news patriarch too powerful to correct?