Trollery 101 — Disrupt the disruption

Notes from the trenches. 

Advocate for the kind of cyber space you want. Tell people flat out that their behaviour isn’t appropriate.

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

Don’t just post your little comment and read a couple more and leave. Claim the comment space, especially if you’re being attacked or take exception to certain nasty trolls. Scan the comments, look for the repeat abusers and hound them. It freaks them out, it never occurs to them that people could be watching. It’s a simple tactic that works well.

If you’re keen on the research, 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, some codes 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. 

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

Teenage trolls are easy to spot and easy to rebuff. Their style is generally the one-liner attack; most are used to online engagement that involves the modern version of trading cards, and excel at brevity: one word, one phrase, 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. Most foreign trolls aren’t there to engage with you, they might even be bots. Their job is to dump onto the comment thread, seeding it with whatever brand of poison they’re being paid to deliver.

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 and have their data managed by a savvy new internet company. Thank the god of bumbling Canadians because 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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Insert Your New Ideas Here

June Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

In less than 6 weeks the online passenger train petition has 1,150 signatures, and counting. (https://www.change.org/p/premier-gov-bc-ca-bring-back-the-north-vancouver-to-prince-george-passenger-train) The Facebook page—Bring Back the BC Passenger Train—has hundreds of Likes and shares so far. People are keen to have the service.

But as I connect with people and do research, one negative keeps cooling the excitement: even though population, highway traffic, and tourism have significantly increased since the train was cancelled in 2002, would ridership be enough to make a new service profitable?

To that negative train of thought (sorry, the puns abound) I would say this: it’s time to think beyond old-school revenue models. Why force ridership to be the sole profit generator? Let’s re-imagine the passenger train concept and find ways to maximize the infrastructure in terms of the incoming green economy.

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Time for an Online Petition

March Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News

Recently this paper reported the latest developments in the ongoing passenger train campaign (DoL asks communities to get on board, March 16th) and I’d like to suggest that if it’s not already being planned, it’s the perfect time to take the campaign to social media.

An online petition would transcend the distance between the communities along the passenger rail service line. It would be a great tool for revealing unknown pockets of support, gathering more energy and awareness of the issue, and magnifying the voice of the people.

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Book Review: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

non-fiction by Jon Ronson

A timely subject given the unmediated power of social media, a survey of some of the ways the shame monster breathes its foul breath upon our lives. The book is a quickie tour, though, so readers looking for a deep-end analysis are likely to be disappointed. Ronson’s reportage can be amusing, as in his description of himself as the “tweedy and owl-like” observer in a San Francisco Kink factory. I know that writing a book entails too much solitude and a lot of ass-numbing work so I guess it’s hard to blame the guy for slipping some kink tourism into the research budget. For all the good it did him, though, the sexual atmosphere must have overwhelmed because the tweedy owl’s observations about shame fell short of relevant.

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