By Bill Maher
President Trump has been bragging, as usual, about spending quite a lot of money on weapons, to protect us from the world, even though they respect us like never before. It doesn’t really track, and I dare anyone at one of his rallies to name the weapons we didn’t have before that we…
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.
February Op-ed for the Bridge River Lillooet News
Valentine’s Day is difficult for those who’ve lost—or are losing—someone they love. And it’s harder when that person is far away, like my close relative who’s recently been diagnosed with a life-shortening disease.
For now we are connecting through technology, which is a blessing except for the texts I was receiving. The first time she punctuated a text with a black heart my own heart squeezed in empathy and sorrow: she’s grieving the loss of her future, the black heart must signal the bleakness and dread she’s feeling.
Afraid she was giving up hope, I texted back loving and supportive messages loaded with colourful hearts. Red, purple, blue, gold, green and of course the many pink ones. I’d stack them together like a sentence until they looked like a chain of candy. I hoped the dose of colour would lift her spirits, however briefly. And maybe they would nudge her toward replacing the black one.
But not so. They kept coming. Within a couple of weeks I developed a Pavlovian response. Seeing one would literally make me feel nauseous. But I censored myself from saying anything. How much time does she have left? How could I object to anything she was choosing to do?
Finally I texted a mutual friend and asked if she was also receiving black hearts. No, she wasn’t, just the coloured ones. That made me feel worse. Did she have unspoken grievances, had I failed her too many times over these many years? I needed to ask but didn’t; she was dealing with so much, my insecurity was irrelevant and selfish. Then I thought, maybe she only sends me the black heart because she believes I’m strong enough to handle her darker feelings.
Which is accurate, usually I am that strong person. But that isn’t so right now. I just had to say something. That night I got little sleep as I tossed and turned and wrestled with the decision. In the morning she sent another text and there were no words, just one black heart.
So I sent the text. Is there a reason that I’m receiving the black hearts, I asked, they are like little black darts and I’m worried enough already. I waited for her reply. The minutes that passed were very long and very silent.
Her text was stitched with exclamation marks. She was so sorry I’d been feeling bad! She would never ever do that to me! The hearts were supposed to be gold, red, or purple!!
Some of my worry lifted. Then I cast around for the right explanation and soon realized that the problem had to be with my cell phone, which has been doing strange things for a while and at six-plus-years old is dinosaur technology compared to her brand new iPhone. My cell sends out colourful hearts just fine, but incoming hearts that should be full of colour and love were all defaulted to black. And that’s already further into the symbolic than I ever wanted to go.
Thus far in the global migrant crisis Canada’s border has been quiet, mostly due to our geography/isolation. But now that the U.S. is closing in on itself and relegating immigration to a zone of fear and instability, we have seen a threefold spike in the number of refugees/migrants coming across.
You know people are desperate when they trudge north through waist-deep snow and brutal winds in the deepest, darkest winter for 10 hours to the border, losing fingers and toes to frostbite in the process. Now that spring is whispering in the wings and soon the weather will be warm, this trickle could very well turn into a torrent. The New Yorker reported on an underground railroad poised to launch the migrants they are currently housing and protecting. Soon we may see our nation’s claim of racial tolerance tested.
On another note, Melania Trump has been on my mind for a long while; I’m not alone in wondering what kind of man Rump is in private and what she must endure. In one of the protest rallies outside the NYC Rump Tower someone held up a sign that read: Melania, blink twice if you need to be rescued.
This week, 22 Minutes, Canada’s troupe of irreverent comics who riff on current political topics, put out their latest video: “Mrs. Trump, this is the third time this week.”
So I’m posting it here, because we’re all holding our breath and it’s Funny Bone Friday, Episode #12
Technocreep, The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy, published 2014
by Thomas P. Keenan — technologist, professor, computer security expert and government advisor
“The first step in formulating an intelligent response to growing technocreepiness is to understand who is after your information and why they want it…”
Somebody recently said about the internet, these days it’s a sign of mental illness if you’re not a little bit paranoid. In that spirit, this book is a must-read with chapters titled Intelligence Creep, Camera Creep, Bio Creep, Deception Creep and Anti-Creep. You’ll learn the fun new term glasshole, and the not-so-fun terms wireheading, swarm intelligence and the cyber trickery known as dark patterns.
“There are things you can do to throw people off your cyberscent and retain as much privacy and freedom as possible, but you need to start taking action now…”