Tag Archives | Trolls

Ellen Pao Tells Us What It’s Like To Lose Her Job Due To Trolls

Ellen Pao. Photo: Christopher Michel (CC)

Ellen Pao. Photo: Christopher Michel (CC)

Ellen Pao. Remember her? So far this year she’s lost her gender discrimination lawsuit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins and famously been booted from the CEO role at reddit. She’s blaming it on trolls, writing an op-ed at the Washington Post:

I have just endured one of the largest trolling attacks in history. And I have just been blessed with the most astonishing human responses to that attack.

What happened to me while head of the popular online forum Reddit for the past eight months is important to consider as we confront the ways in which the Internet is evolving. Here’s why:

The Internet started as a bastion for free expression. It encouraged broad engagement and a diversity of ideas. Over time, however, that openness has enabled the harassment of people for their views, experiences, appearances or demographic backgrounds. Balancing free expression with privacy and the protection of participants has always been a challenge for open-content platforms on the Internet.

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Inside Russia’s Troll Army

Have you noticed the vast number of “Kremlin Trolls” of late? BBC News reports on this latest scourge of the internet:

Over the past year, Russia has seen an unprecedented rise in the activity of “Kremlin trolls” – bloggers allegedly paid by the state to criticise Ukraine and the West on social media and post favourable comments about the leadership in Moscow.

Though the existence and even whereabouts of the alleged “cyber army” are no secret, recent media reports appear to have revealed some details of how one of the tools of Russian propaganda operates on an everyday basis.

Leaving comments about murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was described as a "technical task." Photo: Dhārmikatva (CC)

Leaving comments about murdered opposition leader Boris Nemtsov was described as a “technical task.” Photo: Dhārmikatva (CC)

“Troll den”

The Internet Research Agency (“Agentstvo Internet Issledovaniya”) employs at least 400 people and occupies an unremarkable office in one of the residential areas in St Petersburg.

Behind the plain facade, however, there is a Kremlin “troll den”, an investigative report by independent local newspaper Moy Rayon (“My District”) suggests.

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Yule Lads Rival Santa In Iceland

Yule lads in Dimmuborgir.JPG

“Yule lads in Dimmuborgir” by lusinemarg (CC)

Remember the infamous Necropants housed in Iceland’s Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft? Well just in time for Christmas comes this tale from the National Museum of Iceland of the Yule Lads, descended from trolls and a whole lot scarier than Santa Claus. They visit the museum on the 13 days before Christmas, starting today, December 12th:

The Icelandic Yule Lads bear little similarity to the world-famous Santa Claus, who is descended from St. Nicholas, patron saint of children and sailors. In contrast, the Icelandic Yule Lads are descended from trolls and their original role was to strike fear in the hearts of children. As it happens, they are the sons of two of the most hideous ogres ever known in Iceland, Grýla and Leppalúði.

No doubt most children would have wanted to avoid the Icelandic Yule Lads in the old days, since they were used by parents to frighten their children into behaving – just as Grýla and Leppalúði are today.

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A Sad Fact of Life: It’s Actually Smart to Be Mean Online

Or do they? Jacob Bøtter (CC by 2.0)

Or do they?
Jacob Bøtter (CC by 2.0)

Is this why I have no Twitter followers? I’m too nice?

via Wired:

I’m generally upbeat on Twitter. Many of my posts are enthusiastic blurts about science or research in which I use way too many exclamation points!! But I’ve noticed something: When I post an acerbic or cranky tweet, it gets recirculated far more widely than do my cheerier notes. People like it fine when I’m genial, but when I make a caustic joke or cutting comment? Social media gold. This is pure anecdata, of course. Still, it made me wonder if there was any psychological machinery at work here. Is there a reason that purse-lipped opinions would outcompete generous ones?

Indeed, there is. It’s called hypercriticism. When we hear negative statements, we think they’re inherently more intelligent than positive ones. Teresa Amabile, director of research for Harvard Business School, began exploring this back in the 1980s.

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Do Conspiracy Theorists Feed on Unsuspecting Internet Trolls?

Theodor Kittelsen, Askeladden.jpg

Have fun with this one, disinfonauts, found at Pacific Standard:

You know who you are. Somebody posts some daft claim about chemtrailsfaked moon landings, and a supposed connection between vaccines and autism. You step in, trying valiantly to show them the error of their ways.

Well, your plan won’t work. No, if anything, it’ll make it worse.

That’s the conclusion of a new study by a team of Italian computer scientists, physicists, and, yes, social scientists. They scoured data from Italian Facebook—acquired through the publicly available Graph system—that showed how users had interacted with Facebook pages devoted to science news, conspiracy theories, conspiracy debunkers, and satirists and trolls.

Generally speaking, fans of actual science news and fans of conspiracy theories were pretty similar.

Sorting through 1.2 million users in all, the team first identified individuals who had used 95 percent of their likes on either science or conspiracy pages.

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Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists

Mitt på golvet stod en öppen kista och sutto två förskräckliga troll.jpg

A new study shows that internet trolls really are just terrible human beings, reports Psychology Today, to absolutely no one’s surprise:

In this month’s issue of Personality and Individual Differences, a study was published that confirms what we all suspected: internet trolls are horrible people.

Let’s start by getting our definitions straight. An internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.

What kind of person would do this?

Canadian researchers decided to find out. They conducted two internet studies with over 1,200 people. They gave personality tests to each subject along with a survey about their internet commenting behavior. They were looking for evidence that linked trolling with the Dark Tetrad of personality: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadistic personality…

[continues at Psychology Today]

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Super Happy Comments Funtime!

hypnotogeometry1Hey Thad, where are the regularly scheduled rants that we’ve become accustomed to over the last year or so? Well, I decided several weeks back I should probably actually put the finishing touches on the book I wrote that’s coming out next month (if all goes right) and that maybe I should wrap that up before I spend more of my time ranting at y’all. They’ll be back here soon, and you know what else? Video rants all Lee Camp style. As far as I can tell, the problem with my writing is that no one reading it can tell how ridiculously good looking I am (riiiiight). I mean, how are gay dudes supposed to masturbate to an internet article? How are women supposed to make weird scrapbooks with hearts around me while jotting down the names of our future children? This needs to be resolved and so I’m buying a decent video camera here soon to do just that.… Read the rest

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How Misinformation Spreads on Facebook

RIAN archive 988824 Facebook social network's pageSarah Gray reports for Salon (via AlterNet) on research about how people on Facebook interacted with “trolls” posting false information; she says the results are depressing:

From the steady roll of theories on what happened to Malaysian Arlines Flight 370, to Sarah Palin’s “death panels” panic, to Donald Trump’s birther theories, misinformation spreads like wildfire in the age of Facebook.

In 2013, professor Walter Quattrociocchi of Northeastern University along with his team studied how more than 1 million Facebook users engaged with political information during the Italian election. During that election a post appeared titled: “Italian Senate voted and accepted (257 in favor and 165 abstentions) a law proposed by Senator Cirenga to provide policy makers with €134 billion Euros to find jobs in the event of electoral defeat.”

The post was from an Italian site that parodies the news. According to  MIT Technology Review it was filled with at least four major inaccuracies: “[T]he senator involved is fictitious, the total number of votes is higher than is possible in Italian politics, the amount of money involved is more than 10% of Italian GDP and the law itself is an invention.”

Despite the blatant falsehoods of this  parody news post, the story went viral — shared over 35,000 times in less than a month.

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How Trolls Ruin Your Ability to Reason

Troll_Face_-_Internet_Meme,_May_2013Next time you want to call someone on the Internet an idiot or child, remember that you’re strengthening their opinion.  Chris Mooney writes at Mother Jones:

In a recent study, a team of researchers from the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication and several other institutions employed a survey of 1,183 Americans to get at the negative consequences of vituperative online comments for the public understanding of science. Participants were asked to read a blog post containing a balanced discussion of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology (which is already all around us and supports a $91 billion US industry). The text of the post was the same for all participants, but the tone of the comments varied. Sometimes, they were “civil”—e.g., no name calling or flaming. But sometimes they were more like this: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you’re an idiot.”

The researchers were trying to find out what effect exposure to such rudeness had on public perceptions of nanotech risks.

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