In Civility in the Digital Age: How Companies and People Can Triumph over Haters, Trolls, Bullies and Other Jerks, trolls are described as “attention-seekers whose sole goal is to wreak havoc online for the purpose of fun and pleasure. Moreover, they thrive on the perceived weakness, naiveté, and emotional reactions of their victims.”
But trolls aren’t a homogenous group comprised simply of stereotypically angry young men, they also consist of “young women, and men easily old enough to be fathers and grandfathers.” While there are many different types of trolls, one interesting observation about trolls is that they seem to be increasingly gravitating to Twitter. Maybe it’s due to the ease with which they can create trouble (no need to get particularly lengthy with insults or attacks, 140 character is all that’s needed!) and the popularity and high-profile nature of the platform.
Trolls are making international headlines again because they’ve publicly gone after Caroline Criado-Perez for successfully lobbying the Bank of England to put novelist Jane Austen’s image on the new £10 note, as well as British Member of Parliament Stella Creasy for supporting her.
Here are some examples of what we’re talking about:
Some of the attackers’ real identities have now been revealed, according to MailOnline. One of the accused was reportedly unrepentant for his actions and, when asked whether he felt his behavior was “normal and made him proud,” responded “Yes, yes I do. And yes it does make me proud.”
Sadly, this example is but one of many that occur on Twitter on a regular basis. Based on recent events, a petition therefore called for the creation of a Twitter button that would make the reporting of threats and abuse easier. (It should be noted that not all experts believe such a button is an effective solution; Dr. Janet Sternberg, author of the book Misbehavior in Cyber Places, for example, has misgivings.) In response to this widespread concern about the frightening and unconscionable attacks occurring on the platform, Tony Wang, general manager of Twitter UK, stated that a list of changes would be occurring on Twitter, changes that would apply worldwide. These include an update to the Twitter Rules and in-Tweet button to report abuse (already available on the iOS Twitter app and on the mobile web, and scheduled to be available on Twitter.com in September).
Dr. Claire Hardaker, a professor of Linguistics and English Literature who studies aggression, deception, and manipulation in computer-mediated communication, says that we need to examine the root causes of such misbehavior in order to effectively deal with it. She argues that “it seems both morally and logically better to face the problem head-on. This could take the form of training and education for those amenable to change, or convictions and prison terms for those who are not.”
Education is an important part of bringing about necessary behavioral and legal changes. That’s why at CiviliNation, we take very seriously our role in helping bring about positive social change. We hope you’ll continue to support us in our efforts. And we hope you’ll consider making a contribution to the creation of the Academy for Online Conflict Management. UPDATE: The Indigogo campaign is over, but the fundraising is far from over. You can give by clicking on the big button below.
(Image: Troll Ave” by Andrés Monroy-Hernández http://www.flickr.com/photos/amonroy/2379870487)