Troll Taxonomies

“The internet doesn’t turn people into assholes so much as it acts as a massive megaphone for existing ones, according to work by researchers at Aarhus University.

-Tom McCay, “Online Trolls Actually Just Assholes All the Time, Study Finds.” Gizmodo. August 27, 2021.

I think there is a troll gravity online, where the megaphones of a few draw people into their troll orbit. And like gravity, there is a difference between super massive jackholes of trolldom, where galaxies of individuals revolve around them. On the other end, there are the asteroids and comets of trolldom, not there all the time, but occasionally, they fly in and are a spectacle. If you are going to have this kind of discussion, you probably need to develop a taxonomy of trolldom.

Also, the reason people behave differently online is because there is not a threat of physical violence. A grief troll online can just ask questions that offline would likely end in a beating.

Message Board Rot

“This ties into something I’m extremely interested in that I like to call “message board rot”. I like looking for signs that social networks are dying or atrophying. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always found it fascinating that one day Myspace was the biggest thing in my social life and then one day it wasn’t. And while working over the years as a community moderator and then as a reporter who covers online communities, I’ve tried to put together a criteria for how you know if a social network is on its last legs. I’m not sure I’ve finished building it out, but I’ll share with you what I have so far:

* Power users aggressively dominate discussion on the site.

* Public harassment and inter-community elitism has created a culture of indirect communication, where users no longer directly say what they’re actually trying to say.

* There is no longer any internal cultural memory.

* Users have become so obsessed with the minutiae of the community that the site now functions as a meta discussion of itself instead of whatever its intended purpose was.

* Poor or lax moderation has created a sense that nothing on the site is genuine — fake users, fake trending topics, fake threads, fake engagement.

* Users, reacting to the inauthentic behavior, public harassment, and elitism that occurs due to bad moderation, create their own self-policed communities within the larger community, which typically only exacerbates these problems and creates warring factions within the site.

-Ryan Broderick, “tfw a crustacean.” Garbage Day. December 2, 2020.