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The Internet Social Networks

The Inevitable Death of the Internet Troll 571

HughPickens.com writes James Swearingen writes at The Atlantic that the Internet can be a mean, hateful, and frightening place — especially for young women but human behavior and the limits placed on it by both law and society can change. In a Pew Research Center survey of 2,849 Internet users, one out of every four women between 18 years old and 24 years old reports having been stalked or sexually harassed online. "Like banner ads and spam bots, online harassment is still routinely treated as part of the landscape of being online," writes Swearingen adding that "we are in the early days of online harassment being taken as a serious problem, and not simply a quirk of online life." Law professor Danielle Citron draws a parallel between how sexual harassment was treated in the workplace decades ago and our current standard. "Think about in the 1960s and 1970s, what we said to women in the workplace," says Citron. "'This is just flirting.' That a sexually hostile environment was just a perk for men to enjoy, it's just what the environment is like. If you don't like it, leave and get a new job." It took years of activism, court cases, and Title VII protection to change that. "Here we are today, and sexual harassment in the workplace is not normal," said Citron. "Our norms and how we understand it are different now."

According to Swearingen, the likely solution to internet trolls will be a combination of things. The expansion of laws like the one currently on the books in California, which expands what constitutes online harassment, could help put the pressure on harassers. The upcoming Supreme Court case, Elonis v. The United States, looks to test the limits of free speech versus threatening comments on Facebook. "Can a combination of legal action, market pressure, and societal taboo work together to curb harassment?" asks Swearingen. "Too many people do too much online for things to stay the way they are."
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The Inevitable Death of the Internet Troll

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  • No chance (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:07AM (#48211457)

    Every year a new generation of kids come on line, fueled with anonymity and alcohol, people post stuff they wouldn't say to someone's face. So fuck off the lot of you!

    • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @10:50AM (#48212741) Homepage Journal

      Yesterday's and today's comics on Dilbert show the proper response to sexual harassment.
      dilbert.com/2014-10-22/ [dilbert.com]
      dilbert.com/2014-10-23/ [dilbert.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hognoxious ( 631665 )

      -1 SHITCOCK

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What about automated hate? Bots that sends hateful messages directed to all different types and groups of people? Would the bot-maker be liable for online harassment then?

    • by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:49AM (#48211767)

      No, the bot should be liable: we need to re-instate trials and executions against non-humans again.
      >Judge: "This computer have been found guilty of indiscriminate hatred against millions of people and shall be hanged by the FSB until dead! Do you have any last words?"
      >[microsoft sam tts]: You can kill my Process, but you can't kill my open-sourced code!
      >Digital rights activist: "FSB Hanging is cruel and unsual punishment! at least we could use the more humane option of SQL injections!"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jzilla ( 256016 )
        With civil asset forfeiture they do arrest, and have trials against non-humans.
  • Death? (Score:5, Informative)

    by excelsior_gr ( 969383 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:11AM (#48211491)

    Judging by this summary, the trolls are alive and well, I'd say.

    • Re:Death? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Xest ( 935314 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @10:08AM (#48212427)

      Yeah, I read a subject line about the death of trolls and I got a summary about feminism.

      What the fuck? Anyone would think only females are ever victims of trolling going by this summary.

  • Not just women (Score:3, Insightful)

    by frikken lazerz ( 3788987 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:12AM (#48211493)
    Oh no, not this topic again... Trolls don't care about their tragets' gender. They just want the most harm for the least effort. Women generally are the ones who get offended and emotional about this stuff, and therefore are much easier and more exciting targrta. Men just ignore it or fight back. As they say, the easiest way to make someone stop bullying you is to ignore it and not be offended or bothered (or at least not show it). Either thay, or swing back if the situation calls for it. The bully will move on to someone weaker and raiser to get a rise out of.
    • Men just ignore it or feed the trolls.

      Fixed that for you.

    • Re:Not just women (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:39AM (#48211693) Homepage

      There are two types of trolls. One type (let's call this the Classic Troll) gets their jollies by upsetting people. So if you respond to the troll's inflammatory remarks, they like it and will keep it up. If you ignore the Classic Troll, they will slink away to try to rile someone else up.

      The second type (Targeted Troll) doesn't care about upsetting people as much as they care about targeting a specific person or group. If you're part of the group they are targeting and they latch on to you, they may or may not let go if you ignore them. If you're the specific person they are targeting, then they WON'T stop merely because they are ignored. They will keep ramping up the remarks until a response is obtained.

      The big problem with Targeted Trolls is that they don't tend to be solitary creatures like the Classic Troll. While they will act alone, they can also get together with other Targeted Trolls to harass the person/people who have entered their cross-hairs. This amplifies the harassment and can make it impossible for them to be ignored. (For example, if one of them tracks down the victim's home address and posts it with a threatening message.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Women generally are the ones who get offended and emotional about this stuff, and therefore are much easier and more exciting targrta.

      Ignoring the sexist nature of your comment for a moment, do you think we should simply stop trying to protect anyone from harassment and bullying because clearly it's their own fault for being sensitive to their disability/skin colour/nationality/etc? You are just blaming the victim here.

      The bully will move on to someone weaker and raiser to get a rise out of.

      Right, problem solved, or at least pushed on to to the next victim.

      • Re:Not just women (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Kielistic ( 1273232 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @09:13AM (#48211961)
        Well if everyone would stop feeding the trolls they'd have to find a new hobby. "Victim blaming" isn't some carpet statement you can apply to anything. "Here are some easy steps to avoid nasty trolls" is not victim blaming. That's like "don't run across the freeway if you don't want to get hit" level advice.
      • Re:Not just women (Score:5, Insightful)

        by lgw ( 121541 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @09:35AM (#48212167) Journal

        you think we should simply stop trying to protect anyone from harassment and bullying because clearly it's their own fault for being sensitive

        When the "offended" person is a self-righteous Western middle-class person with an entitlement complex? You betcha. You have it better than 99% of people who have ever lived - stop looking for reasons to be offended, and start realizing how wonderful things are for you.

        The Nobel Peace Prize* was just awarded to a genuine warrior for social justice. Want to be a real SJW? Go someplace where it's illegal to teach girls to read, and get shot at for trying. Want to complain on the internet about your hurt feelings because someone on the internet offended you? Don't be too surprised when people tell you to be less sensitive. And go donate to Room to Read [roomtoread.org], to help those actually making a difference in social justice.

        *A dubious prize in many years, but for once I'm quite impressed by their choice.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gsslay ( 807818 )

      What a nice demonstration of exactly what the article summary suggests. All your arguments are practically identical to the excuses that use to be given for work-place sexual harassment. Silly emotional women just take it all too seriously!

      Except for an additional illogical twist; if trolls find it easiest to troll females (and your stereotyping of both genders is simplistic to say the least) , and are therefore subsequently chosen as a target, then trolls do indeed care about the gender of their target

    • I agree with you this works in a lot of cases. But it seems to me there are major differences in some of the activity I have read about in these cases. One, the sheer level of bullying, hiding behind the Internet, is very different. Death threats, assault threats, "swatting", and so on. Two, they don't just go away. The mere existence of the target seems to enrage a small group of chumps. The Internet makes it easy for them to get together and harass their victim full time. "Just ignore it and they will go
  • Semantics (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:12AM (#48211499)

    The definition of harassment, at least where I live, is "unwanted sexual advances", meaning the distinction between flirting and harassment is purely based on subjective experience. Good luck trying to find a girlfriend without "harassing" anyone!

    • Re:Semantics (Score:4, Informative)

      by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:41AM (#48211699)

      The definition of harassment, at least where I live, is "unwanted sexual advances", meaning the distinction between flirting and harassment is purely based on subjective experience. Good luck trying to find a girlfriend without "harassing" anyone!

      Here's a hint: don't do it at work. Definitely don't do it at work if you are in a position of authority over the recipient.

      See? It wasn't that hard, was it?

    • Are you seriously claiming that there's no way to show your interest in somebody without your approach qualifying as harassment?

      Of course there is. Come on. Showing your interest starts with things such as eye contact, smiling at somebody, stuff like that. And if there's no response, move on. If there is, talk to her. It's not easy for us geeks, I know, but that doesn't mean it's impossible. :)

      Good luck. :)

  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:19AM (#48211533)
    On the Internet, nobody knows you are a dog. So how dog harassment numbers look like? Probably the same.

    According to PA's Greater Internet Fuckward Theory (GIFT), it is gender-neutral and widespread. It is unfortunate, but that is the only way it could exists and still allow unauthenticated participation. To me, this unauthenticated quality that allows anonymity is a lot more valuable than eliminating GIFT asshatery.
  • Hypocrisy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by durrr ( 1316311 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:20AM (#48211547)

    Lets censor and police the internet not because of bomb and drugmaking tutorials and terrorism forums.
    Lets do it because someone might insult females online.

    Every single person that have spent any extended time online in an environment where you communicate anonymously with strangers have been insulted, harassed and so on. It happens because you eventually end up in a competitive situation(games or arguments).

    But of course when xXxPonyWarrior2002xXx calls me a 'shit-eathing motherfucking fag-whore' and wishes me death from cancer and fire simultaneously it's friendly banter between two men. But when he calls GamurGrrl99 a slut it's suddenly a confirmation that all men are misgyonistic pigs and that we can't have such a thing as a free internet anymore because it's full of heartless trolls.

    • Dunno man, "xXxPonyWarrior2002xXx" sounds more like a SJW's username than someone who'd enjoy banter.
    • I'd say, get over yourselves. I just don't understand when the government decided it was part of its job to protect people from the real world. It's not like you're forced to join any particular online community. If I were harassed on slashdot to the point that I didn't like it, I could leave. If enough people left, the mods would have to police the site differently if they didn't want to lose all their users. It's up to each site to police itself. Some communities have basically no moderation. And that's f

  • by GeekWithAKnife ( 2717871 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:21AM (#48211557)

    Can we first then agree one what exactly constitutes a troll?

    I've seen a lot of news about trolls and trolling but it seems that it's rather loosely on an almost arbitrary basis. "Troll" has been used to described a stalker, an asshole, a person with an impolite opinion, a racist, sexist, bigot etc etc

    From one online dictionary we can learn that "troll" (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/troll?s=t) has nothing to do with online activity. Seems this word is now re purposed to what the urban dictionary has an entrie for: (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=troll)

    "One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument."

    Now by that definition which seems to be very much the case in many references is such a person deserving of punishment? prison? -our norms are dynamic. With enough trolls trolling will be the norm.

    The article mentions human behaviour and I believe trolling is an aspect of bullying which is very much natural (although incorrect) and normal. I say this because it's a complete fallacy to tie "trolling" with stalking or sexual harassment.

    We need some clarity on this rather than all this blanket FUD nonsense about trolling. When a person gets mouthy in real life he might get locked up for 24 hours for "disturbing the peace". This includes some pretty colourful language. If this is consistent against one specific person then that is harassment, there is a legal framework for this.

    Has harassment stopped? bullying? -while not justifying it, I argue it never will cease because it's part of human nature.

    Our only hope is to create a finer definition to stop this umbrella term which means different things to different people at different times without consistency; and furthermore we need a punishment befitting of the offence if there indeed was one at all.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      Can we first then agree one what exactly constitutes a troll?

      Probably not in the way you want to agree. It isn't possible to write down every specific behaviour and every possible situation that would be trolling. That's why we have courts to decide these things by evaluating the facts of each case, which tend to be somewhat unique.

      I know that isn't very satisfactory, but that's the way the world is.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      I got modded as a Troll a couple of days ago because I called the pro-gun crowd here "testosterone-driven" (sorry guys, sorry. you're right of course, high-powered firearms for everybody makes for a great society). So what makes somebody a troll most of all, I guess, is disagreeing with a local majority that's really convinced of its own righteousness. :)
    • The internet usage of the term 'troll' derives not from the mythical Scandinavian beast but from a fishing term - to 'troll' is to drag a baited line behind a slowly moving boat. A troll typically inserts an off-topic, extraneous or inflammatory message or comment into an online forum and sits back and watches the suckers bite. The 'trolls' making the news at the moment are more accurately described as 'wankers.'
  • Holy fucking wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tyr07 ( 2300912 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:25AM (#48211587) Homepage

    Another generalization to the fucking word troll! Awesome!


    Stop trying to shut down the people who decided your fucking house in minecraft should look like a penis to you can make fucking anti troll laws. What's next? Anti not being nice and forgiving me to laws? Fuck you.

    Next time someone does a smear campaign online and follows you, ARREST THEM, If I went around some town POSTING PICTURES ALL OVER that were private, fucking wrong, embarassing and put private info on it and other things, I WOULD GO TO JAIL AS THAT IS ILLEGAL
    So it is on the internet too is it not?

    TROLLING - When a comment is made to rile up or bait other people into a discussion. E.G People in Canada don't have roads.
    That is a TROLL. It's also not a big fucking deal.

    That is INVASION of privacy, SEXUAL HARASSMENT, HARASSMENT, DISTURBING THE PEACE and many other things if you added more to it.

    Learn the fucking laws people, and I mean you too police officers, and fucking use them properly. Fucking anti not nice to be law bullshit.

    • by weilawei ( 897823 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:34AM (#48211657) Homepage

      +1, Insightful. +1 for profuse swearing.

      • by Tyr07 ( 2300912 )

        Sorry, I get a little passionate about this kind of crap. Same people who make laws to protect businesses that have failed business models as they like their kick backs are the same people who will make it illegal to say not nice things so politicians can always out maneuver you.

    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 )

      Mod parent +1

      There are already laws in place that deal with everything mentioned in TFA, and these laws work online as they do in the real world.
      The online world does not need additional laws, rules or regulations that the real world does not.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

      In modern parlance a troll is someone who uses the remote and/or anonymous nature of the internet to harass others. The separation of the bully and the victim seems to cause much more prolonged or extreme harassment than would happen face to face in many cases.

      The meaning of troll in common language has changed I'm afraid, just like hacker and gay did.

      • by Tyr07 ( 2300912 )

        The only change to the word troll is by media retards who want to use a new catchey internet phrase. That's the only thing that's changing it, and that's what's pissing me off.

        Yes, people are doing much more prolonged contact online harassing people but it's not trolling just because it's online.

        You know what part of the problem is? People are also refusing to leave places. It's like if you knew that you walked down an alley that you didn't need to go down you would get bothered by someone.

        So you keep walki

    • Really regretting burning through all my MOD points this morning.
  • Every troll dies, children. Not every troll truly lives.

    This article is a troll. Trolling will remain alive and well unless we ban it. But if we eliminate anonymous speech (as wags like David Brin suggest) then we will harm free speech. The only way to solve this problem utterly is to change the way we feel about women, and if that could happen overnight, it probably would have done so already.

  • The essence and intent of the internet troll cannot be stopped, it will only be abstracted into more subtle and passive aggressive manifestations. Akin to people who develop extremely bizarre fetishes (i.e. the very act of renting an adult movie rather than anything to do with watching the content it contains) restriction will only cause it to take a more vague and flowery form in the direction of innuendo hinting at the intended message. The internet is extremely good at "rooting around damage" as so many

  • To be fair, I'm entirely in favor of men and women being equal in all ways which are logical. This means that I think it's nice to be able to pee standing up but I don't see the point in purchasing devices for my daughter to do the same. I also don't have any person urges to experience menstruation or pregnancy. I do think however that for air conditioning purposes, wearing a kilt might not be too bad.

    I remember a friend of mine in the early 90s being fired and sued by his company for the fact that he was l
  • Respect in anonymity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by skovnymfe ( 1671822 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:37AM (#48211679)

    As the old saying goes "We exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious bias..."

    But that's not true anymore is it? These "women" now exist on the internet, and as long as they keep trying to be "women" on the internet, people will call them out for it. People call "women" skanks because they fill their profiles with pictures of themselves looking like skanks. People harass "women" because they keep pointing out how unfairly they're being treated because they're "women".

    There are now "women" in gaming, "women" in business, "women" fighting for "women" and more power to the "women". Why? If these "women" would just stop trying so damn hard, then there would be room for everyone.

    But that'd mean having to compete with everyone else on equal terms, wouldn't it? The "women" wouldn't be able to rely on their pretty looks and the empowerment of other "women", and they'd receive no special attention from all the nerds on the internet. We'd all be equals, each anonymous entity carrying its own weight, relying on words to enforce their ideas. But we can't have that. Only "women" can be equal.

    • It's almost like they don't want a pure meritocracy?

      The feminist movement is not about being treated as equals; it's about identifying a majority (seriously!) of the human population as "victims" in order to gain wealth and political power 'advocating' on their behalf.

  • by argoff ( 142580 ) * on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:43AM (#48211713)

    This isn't about sexual harassment, but controlling the internet, and implicitly people in general. A lot of the powers that be have decided that, like other forms of media, they need to sanitize it in the name of control. (even with games, google gamergate) They want a name and an ID behind every post, they want to create "accountability". They gleefully ignore the fact that any woman, gay person, person of color, persecuted minority can take on an anon alias and argue their beliefs, do their work on merit alone. Seriously, how do we even know that Satoshi, the bitcoin creator, isn't a black lesbian? The internet frees productive people from race and gender in a way that before was never even remotely possible.

    So maybe, just maybe, the people who want to make it an issue now, are the doing it not because of some high morality, but because they are discovering they can't compete on merit. But the issue is way deeper that that. In today's world, a lot of media and games are controlled via copyright, but copyrights by their very nature require centralized control by those who control them to work. Yet the internet is doing just the opposite, it is moving into the direction of decentralized control, threatening a lot of people, who happen to have a lot of money.

    • Yes and no, sir. You are correct in implicitly stating that the internet would have to BE controlled in order for the death of trolls to occur. As many have previously ruminated, the very essence of anonymity grants trolls the ability to be trolls safely, and with no consequences. The article predicts the Inevitable Death of Trolls because the american society has already put to death similar grievances (or attempted to), such as sexual harassment in the workplace. However, the article does not theorize HOW

  • by NotDrWho ( 3543773 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @08:44AM (#48211729)

    He goes first, then follows the controversial poster, then follows the poster who says anything contrary, then goes the poster who doesn't toe the approved line.

    Freedom of speech means tolerating some trolls. Better that than to lose that freedom.

    • > Freedom of speech means tolerating some trolls. Better that than to lose that freedom.

      Indeed. This same concept is called Blackstone Formulation [wikipedia.org] in Justice.

      "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer",

  • Too many people do too much online for things to stay the way they are

    If you don't like it, leave and get a new internet.
  • by morgauxo ( 974071 ) on Thursday October 23, 2014 @09:05AM (#48211897)

    Wasn't troll supposed to mean someone that writes controversial or inflamatory things (even if they don't really believe them) just to get other people debating (fighting) about it so they can sit back and watch the fireworks. Now it's cyber bullies and people who harass women online. It sounds like the old/new definitions of hacker. This new English, it changes faster than Double Talk!

  • "Can a combination of legal action, market pressure, and societal taboo work together to curb harassment?"

    Evidently, all systems of moderation and meta-moderation by users have proven ineffective. But the frequent scoldings we see here evidently show promise.

  • Men are the victims (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 23, 2014 @09:25AM (#48212075)

    According to the actual study [pewinternet.org], men are the most common victims of trolls. Only if you restrict yourself to looking at sexual harassment, are women more likely to be targeted, and only by a small margin (3%).

    Online men are somewhat more likely than online women to experience some level of online harassment overall. Some 44% of men and 37% of women have experienced at least one of the six types of harassment. Men are somewhat more likely than women to experience certain less severe forms of harassment like name-calling and being embarrassed. At the same time, online men are also slightly more likely to have received physical threats. While the differences are small, women are significantly more likely than men to report being stalked or sexually harassed on the internet.

Help! I'm trapped in a PDP 11/70!