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Internet trolls: feed them, ignore them, or embrace them?

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The web is home to the best trolls in the world, and you’re going to come across them. Here are some proven ways to react.

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Internet trolls: good or bad

In the above video by the Idea Channel, Mike makes the argument for and against internet trolls, which we thought we would address with our own experiences. You’ve heard the phrase, “don’t feed the trolls,” but do they actually serve a purpose? Where does trolling end and harassment begin?

First, we should consider that the idea of anonymity is fading online, so trolling behavior is often associated with a real person and their real name, so some trolls have become quiet over the years, while others have willingly taken on trolling in public under their real names. That said, most people that troll under their names are not sending death threats, rather being argumentative, which should be embraced to avoid the echo chamber. But when someone threatens violence or insults in an effort to bully, harass, or hurt others, the usefulness of their behavior diminishes.

Personally, I have both fed, ignored, and embraced trolls, but it depends on their intentions. Let’s examine:

  • Feeding the trolls: I find myself giving trolls fodder with arguments that are not personal to me. Arguing over the merits of whether Twitter is valuable or not is not personal to me, and I don’t care if someone tells me I’m retarded (their words) for using Twitter. In this instance, I’m openly feeding the trolls and sometimes even provoking for fun. Consider it trolling the trolls. I’m okay with it, and they are too, and it’s kind of fun for all and we let off steam.
  • Ignoring the trolls: I get tagged in a lot of inappropriate stuff on Facebook and sometimes it’s funny, but other times, it is truly harmful to my reputation. Recently, someone posted an extremely racist photo and tagged me in it. I untagged myself and didn’t say anything, because with that particular troll, if I react, they’ll just get worse and start posting racist photos on my wall and so forth. I’ve found that in some instances, ignoring actually does make it go away, because they’re looking for a reaction. If they’re harassing my friends on my wall, I have to react (reprimand, unfollow, block, depending on the severity).
  • Embracing the trolls: you’re going to think I’m weird, but there are a few people I’ve met online through their trolling and I’ve actually become friends with them. Often, it’s political, and by not shutting out their opinion (although dripping with rude sarcasm and condescension), I have learned to see the bigger picture and I have honestly expanded my horizons and my thought patterns by being open to others’ opinions, even if they suck at delivering them.

And then, there is harassment

Trolling is one thing, harassment is another. Harassment can be a continued string of threats, or just one rude comment designed to hurt, but it is never called for, and never acceptable.

I once posted on Facebook a story about the declining number of death penalty cases in America, and I didn’t opine as to whether I thought that was good or not, but someone made an assumption. They began commenting that I was the reason crime in America is on the rise. I disagreed. They commented that I was a bad Republican. I asserted that I’m an Independent voter, and while I tend to be more conservative, I don’t believe in a correlation between taking the death penalty off of the table and increased crime.

So far, so good, right? Civil-ish discourse.

Then, he said that my inability to reason is why God killed our son.

…what?

Because I posted a news story from CNN in 2013 about death penalty cases, I deserved to have a stillborn son in 2004? He could have called me a moron and moved on, but he had to cross the line.

When people behave as such, it doesn’t further any conversation, expand any minds, or help anyone to see a bigger picture, it is only designed to make the troll feel better about themselves through abuse. I’ve never received any death threats, but I have been stalked, I’ve been harassed, and demeaned on a regular basis, and while much of it I ignore, there is literally no use for hurtful insults.

Tell us in the comments about a time that you were the victim of an internet troll who went too far.

Further reading

As Mike mentioned in the video, there is more reading and viewing on this topic:

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Tinu

    January 24, 2014 at 1:15 am

    If they are true trolls, it’s highly unlikely that I will feed or embrace them. It’s more of an issue of bandwidth than anything else. Each little hole of unproductive time sucks a piece of my soul and sometimes money I could have earned, with it.

    But when people approach me with a controversial view that they actually want to debate, and not just call names or waste my time, if there’s the possibility that one of us may actually influence the other’s point of view, I engage. I’ve had online conversations with would-be racists, guys who were (mostly) pretending to be sexist to get attention,

    The comment that guy made about why you lost your son – the line he crosses is way in his rear view… that’s way over the line and it’s awful that this happened to you.

  2. Pingback: No worries trolls! Judge rules that a politicians can't ban you on socials - The American Genius

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Facebook beta features fresh friendly facade you can try out

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook is trying to change it’s image, literally. They already changed their logo, now is time for a new design you can see in the beta.

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facebook beta

After sixteen years in the game, Facebook is getting a facelift. Facebook has been working on a redesign for quite some time and they’re finally starting to roll out a beta. Facebook is taking the rollout slow, so it looks like just a few users are seeing the redesign and the rest of us will have to wait. Want to be among the first to test out the new look? Here’s how you can, maybe, make it happen.

If you are one of the lucky few who has been selected to beta test, then getting the new design should be simple. When you log into your account (as if you ever log out) a pop up will prompt you to try out the new beta. If this doesn’t happen, and you’re still feeling optimistic, then turn your eye to the upper right-hand corner of your screen and look for a button labeled “See Facebook Beta.” Still no button, but want to keep the hope alive? Click the drop-down arrow in the right-hand corner of your screen and see if the Facebook Beta option appears in the dropdown. Nothing yet? Tough luck, kid. You have not been chosen.

If the new design is available to you, then Facebook will offer to give you a tour of the new system. The fresh UI aims to simplify the user experience by making the page less cluttered and easier to navigate. Icons will be sleeker and brighter and it should be easier than ever to access your Messenger conversations. And if you decide that you kind of hate the new design, no big deal. Users will have the option to switch back to the classic design, at least while the redesign is still in beta.

Platform redesigns are always a contentious topic of conversation for users. Twitter, in particular, has seen some user drama over its redesigns through the years. Sometimes a redesign will knock out your favorite feature or make a shortcut you used to take in a workflow pointless. And, honestly, sometimes people just don’t like change. Whatever side of the coin you’re on, let us know how you feel about Facebook’s new look.

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Google takes a shot at competing with TikTok, Pinterest videos

(SOCIAL MEDIA) We all love to sit and watch short videos, be they humorous, reactionary, or weird, but here is Googles attempt to get educational with Tangi.

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Tangi screenshot

It’s happened to anyone who’s ever been looking online for how-to help… you click on a likely-sounding YouTube video, only to be greeted by an ad you can’t skip, a whole lot of introductory chit-chat, and three minutes of build-up before you finally see exactly what you need to do to handle your would-be DIY hack.

But what if you could get your answer in 60 seconds or less? It’s the concept behind Tangi, a newly released Google app created in the company’s Area 120 incubator by developer Coco Mao.

Variously described as short-form YouTube, video Pinterest, or TikTok for makers, Tangi was inspired by Mao discovering that her “smartphone challenged” parents were using their devices to watch photography and painting tutorials—and developing new hobbies as a result.

She came back to Google and worked with her team to develop Tangi as a place where such how-to inspiration could be more easily found and taken advantage of. “The name is inspired by the words TeAch aNd Give,” she explained as she introduced the app at the end of January. “’Tangible’—things you can make.”

The philosophy behind Tangi means this is hands-on how-to for the crafty club. The time-lapse heavy videos “could quickly get a point across,” Mao said, “something that used to take a long time to learn with just text and images.”

Videos fall into categories of art, cooking, DIY, fashion and beauty, and lifestyle, and are often accompanied by links to recipes or the maker’s blog or Instagram for more information. Some makers don’t quite have the format down pat yet, but most manage to provide a good balance of visual inspiration and a little more information.

And like Pinterest, Tangi can turn into a time-lapsing rabbit hole of its own. I started with a mere 10-second clip on propagating succulents (I’ve been doing it wrong), which led to a minute on “when succulents stretch” (“etiolation” — new vocabulary word!), which led to a succulent cake which led to a conversation heart cake and before I knew it, 20 minutes had gone by and I was watching an exploding heart science Valentine and had washed up at “Yoda one for me.”

While the app has only been out for about a week … and is only available on iOS and the web … it’s already well populated with content from makers and lifestyle bloggers who partnered with Mao’s team during the development process. And though it’s still in closed-beta mode for content creators, users can apply to be on a waitlist to be invited to upload their own work.

There are a few question marks still. No word on when it will be available on Google’s own Android platform, for one thing. While a couple of intrepid contributors are reviewing education apps and dispensing startup advice, its philosophy as stated by team lead Mao may not extend much more beyond the maker and creative fields to include technology and workplace input. And Google doesn’t always support its apps for long.

But it’s fun, simple, and easy on the eyes. As a place to find quick inspiration and direction, Tangi could carve out a niche.

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New Reddit policy on impersonation mimics other social media giants

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Reddit is the latest social media company to change their policy to protect against deepfake impersonation, because of the harm they can cause.

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impersonation with deepfakes

Reddit is the latest social media company making updates to their rules and policies ahead of the 2020 election. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and now Reddit are all trying to make the social internet a safer place to receive information.

Reddit’s new policy officially bans impersonation with the goal of handling “bad actors who are trying to manipulate Reddit, particularly are issues of great public significance, like elections.”

Deepfakes have become a key topic of conversation the last few years. In the wake of the mass spreading of misinformation during the 2016 presidential election, users have grown wearier than ever of the information they see online. Deepfakes are no longer a niche subject, but an everyday pain point that technology companies are scrambling to control.

In a statement made on r/redditsecurity, Reddit informed users of the change to website policy stating, “Reddit does not allow content that impersonates individuals or entities in a misleading or deceptive manner. This not only includes using a Reddit account to impersonate someone, but also encompasses things such as domains that mimic others, as well as deepfakes or other manipulated content presented to mislead, or falsely attributed to an individual or entity.”

The platform isn’t trying to make a mass change to it’s often humor driven culture. Parody and satire are still allowed forms of impersonation so long as the joke is obvious. Reddit has vowed to always take context into account when looking at cases of user impersonation.

It’s a good sign for society when popular social platforms start taking their role in controlling the spread of false information seriously. Companies like Reddit are in a position to create real change in the way we spread and consume information about major global events.

What’s unclear is how much man power these companies are putting behind their policies. Reddit ends their statement by pointing users to a report form that users can submit if they or someone else is the victim of impersonation. The question users should be asking is how long would it take to get a response or see action on these reports?

Policy changes are great, but if companies are simply throwing them onto their fine print with no resources behind enforcement then it’s not social change, it’s just legal jargon to protect their ass.

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