Anonymity and Trolling

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Anonymity and Trolling

Postby shel » Wed Sep 04, 2013 12:40 am

I was reading on an other Buddhist forum about this topic, the topic of online anonymity and trolling. The topic starter claimed that anonymity on the internet helped to facilitate internet trolling. The author of the topic didn't manage to combine these two aspects of online behavior in any rational way however. Obviously trolling may occur regardless of anonymity.

What I find interesting about the subject is how the term 'trolling' is used and perhaps abused.

What do I mean by abused? Well, for example, is being critical trolling? It can certainly feel that way, and being too critical can be rude. I don't believe that critical thinking can be trolling however, because the underlying motivation for critical thinking may be to seriously understand or explore the truth of any topic. The defining characteristic of trolling is that the only motivation is to entertain oneself, with little or no actual interest in the topic.

Having what you write on an internet forum looked at critically can feel like an attack, especially on a religious forum. In some sense it may be an attack. But to shout 'troll' in order to deflect critical attention is an abuse of the term, and frankly it's rather pathetic.

I believe that a mature adult never needs to be concerned with trolling because an obvious troll is easily recognized and ignored, and all anyone needs to do otherwise is address what someone actually writes. Isn't it really that simple?
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Sep 04, 2013 1:13 am

Trolling simply means being in the conversation for the sole purpose of shit-stirring and provocation, and not trying to actually further the conversation.

BY that definition, it's really common behavior on forums period.

Actual Trolls are usually pretty obvious, but if anyone posts definitive statements about something in order to stir the pot, then refuses to talk about it, or simply switches the debate to a new (usually more inflammatory) topic or statement, it's reasonable to call it trolling I suppose. The thing with good ones though, is they are usually very good at skirting a line so that they avoid moderation, participating with just enough validity here and there that they don't get in trouble.

So I don't agree that they don't need to be worried about, typically good forums actually actively curtail their activities or remove them.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby shel » Wed Sep 04, 2013 2:04 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Trolling simply means being in the conversation for the sole purpose of shit-stirring and provocation, and not trying to actually further the conversation.

BY that definition, it's really common behavior on forums period.


Disagree, in fact I think it's very uncommon for a person to post solely for the purpose of provoking others. Such a person would need to be pretty shallow, and consequently they'd be rather transparent. Discussion often get heated, but there are many reasons for that.

Actual Trolls are usually pretty obvious, but if anyone posts definitive statements about something in order to stir the pot, then refuses to talk about it, or simply switches the debate to a new (usually more inflammatory) topic or statement, it's reasonable to call it trolling I suppose.

Making definitive statements does not constitute trolling. Not responding or changing the topic doesn't constitute trolling. Provocation itself does not constitute trolling. All of these behaviors combined does not constitute trolling.

The thing with good ones though, is they are usually very good at skirting a line so that they avoid moderation, participating with just enough validity here and there that they don't get in trouble.

So I don't agree that they don't need to be worried about, typically good forums actually actively curtail their activities or remove them.

This part is interesting. Someone can participate without breaking any forum rules, yet "good forums" remove them. By this definition DW is not a good forum. :(
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Sep 04, 2013 2:13 am

:shrug: I dunno shel.

All I know is i've been using forums since before there were forums (the days of BBS discussion rooms and what not), and one constant I have noticed with good moderators is that they are good at not only enforcing the rules, but dealing with those who are good at subverting the rules and still getting away with nonsense such as endless discussions which (often purposefully) go nowhere, which definitely falls within the general area of "trolling". Sounds harsh but it's just my opinion. Hate to say it because I lean libertarian in a number of ways, but by far the bet, most long-lived fora i've been on were those that didn't put up with nonsense.

Also, making definitive statements (especially controversial ones), then refusing to back them up, switching subjects etc. might not BE trolling, but it is a common trolling tactic, in fact almost a universally used one.

Disagree, in fact I think it's very uncommon for a person to post solely for the purpose of provoking others. Such a person would need to be pretty shallow, and consequently they'd be rather transparent. Discussion often get heated, but there are many reasons for that.


The internet is full of people doing just this, provocation is practically a pastime. Are you on some secret polite version of the internet or something;)

This part is interesting. Someone can participate without breaking any forum rules, yet "good forums" remove them. By this definition DW is not a good forum. :(


I think it's halfway decent.My one complaint would be that moderator action is not transparent enough, but no one's polling me so...I've seen a few people on here than engage in troll-ish behavior, I have no idea why..don't even wanna guess at motive. I haven't seen any get kicked off for it, but they seem to be kept in line, personally that doesn't bother me because fruitless angry discussions aren't worth it..usually at least!
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby shel » Wed Sep 04, 2013 2:34 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I've seen a few people on here that engage in exactly this [possibly trolling] kind of behavior, I have no idea why..don't even wanna guess at motive.


Aye? If it's trolling then by definition the motive is only to entertain oneself. If you don't know the motive then how can you call it trolling?

Why not just address what people write, or ignore them, and not try to guess at what their 'real' interests are. I imagine that we can all be a little fogy about our real interests at times.

It seems to me that if you focus on what someone is saying and respond to that it will take care of itself.
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby padma norbu » Wed Sep 04, 2013 2:45 am

shel wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Trolling simply means being in the conversation for the sole purpose of shit-stirring and provocation, and not trying to actually further the conversation.

BY that definition, it's really common behavior on forums period.


Disagree, in fact I think it's very uncommon for a person to post solely for the purpose of provoking others. Such a person would need to be pretty shallow, and consequently they'd be rather transparent. Discussion often get heated, but there are many reasons for that.

Actual Trolls are usually pretty obvious, but if anyone posts definitive statements about something in order to stir the pot, then refuses to talk about it, or simply switches the debate to a new (usually more inflammatory) topic or statement, it's reasonable to call it trolling I suppose.

Making definitive statements does not constitute trolling. Not responding or changing the topic doesn't constitute trolling. Provocation itself does not constitute trolling. All of these behaviors combined does not constitute trolling.

The thing with good ones though, is they are usually very good at skirting a line so that they avoid moderation, participating with just enough validity here and there that they don't get in trouble.

So I don't agree that they don't need to be worried about, typically good forums actually actively curtail their activities or remove them.

This part is interesting. Someone can participate without breaking any forum rules, yet "good forums" remove them. By this definition DW is not a good forum. :(


I actually agree with you. Some people simply do not know how to relate to people who are a certain degree of different than themselves and jump to the conclusion that person must be trolling (what an offensive accusation, really; it's like saying "you can't be this stupid, you MUST be trolling"). I find it strange how often people jump to the conclusion someone is trolling. I've been accused of trolling so frequently on various forums since probably 2000 that at some point on particularly stupid forums which are just full of trolls (really), I actually did start trolling for fun! It would have never occurred to me otherwise, because I find trolling is only a sensible thing to do in an environment where it is expected, accepted and found to be humorous. When I troll these places (which is actually rare) it is always with the knowledge someone will eventually say "aw, ya got me" and then I will be sort congratulated about my "good troll."

Anywhere else? I think trolling makes no sense whatsoever and I do not think it is that popular of a pastime, to be frank. There is no satisfaction in trolling unless you get to unveil you were "just trolling" and the other guy fell for it (haha, you dumbass!). The idea that someone wants to stir shit for enjoyment seems rather silly; I don't think it's that common. In fact, I think the accusers have more issues than the people they are so quick to accuse... It's like the original "satan" idea: satan is "the accuser" or one who obstructs someone's path. Funny how the satan idea got so twisted with different cultures accusing other cultures of being "evil" and their gods of being "satan" when the accuser itself (you) is the "satan" as you accuse them and obstruct their path as well as your own. The unwillingness to accept someone's differences and see their point of view is what the obstruction is in the accuser's life. Sometimes, people accused of being trolls probably get annoyed and exaggerate their original point of view simply to irritate the person who jumped all over them and accused him of being a "troll." That's the general pattern of how wars start and the whole idea of satan as an instigator type of character, so yeah, I'd say it's part of the whole troll / flame war thing, too.
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby shel » Wed Sep 04, 2013 2:55 am

Yeah, padma norbu, humor is another aspect. Thanks for bringing that up. Just because someone might be light hearted in a serious discussion doesn't mean they're not serious or not actually interested in the issue.
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby greentara » Wed Sep 04, 2013 4:49 am

"SENDING pornographic emails at work is not an automatic sackable offence, the Fair Work Commission has found.

The independent umpire released a decision today that found Australia Post had unfairly sacked three workers who had sent pornography around the Dandenong Letter Centre.

The decision challenges many employers' policies on pornography in the office.

The Fair Work Commission, in a decision including a contribution from Senior Deputy President Jonathan Hamberger, found that sending lewd emails was not an automatic sacking offence"
Louis Willis ABC

So you can troll and drool at the same time! I'm not surprised as the corporations would much rather have the workers concentrate on their own petty sensations, desires and fantasies. Better that, than workers scrutinising the larger picture and and thinking how unfair society is or having revolutionary thoughts. Lordy lord they don't want the status quo upset in any way!
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby dharmagoat » Wed Sep 04, 2013 6:50 am

Trolling by definition is unwanted provocation and is therefore entirely subjective. What may be trolling to one person may be witty and/or incisive commentary to another.
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Sep 04, 2013 6:57 am

I was just wondering: if a "black" person went to a white supremacist site and posted views on racial equality would that be considered trolling? What about a unreligious person posting on a religious site?

Dharmagoat is correct: the definition of a troll is always going to be largely subjective. I think it mainly has to do with an attitude of intentional disruption. But even that fails the test of objectivity since the "black" person in the aforementioned examples knows that their views will be disruptive (even if they may be true) since they know that their views will not be welcome. Even if their intention is to educate, they will be perceived to be disruptive.
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Sep 04, 2013 7:06 am

shel wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:I've seen a few people on here that engage in exactly this [possibly trolling] kind of behavior, I have no idea why..don't even wanna guess at motive.


Aye? If it's trolling then by definition the motive is only to entertain oneself. If you don't know the motive then how can you call it trolling?

Why not just address what people write, or ignore them, and not try to guess at what their 'real' interests are. I imagine that we can all be a little fogy about our real interests at times.

It seems to me that if you focus on what someone is saying and respond to that it will take care of itself.



It doesn't take care of itself though, unmoderated forums are a mess precisely because people spend so much time posting in this way. It's true that it's subjective, and pretty much entirely by community standards (hopefully), but it appears to me to be pretty necessary to have a system set up for people who engage in whatever bandwidth of forum behavior is deemed "trolling".

You are right that it is impossible to know motivation..that's why usually good moderation in those instances seems to involve prodding people to either make productive conversation ....or else:) There is no need to know someone's motivations if one side stalls out and refuses to carry the conversation forward..of course there are grey areas for sure, but it's easy to see in some threads when one or more of the parties has decided it's no longer a discussion, but a soapbox.

On the best forums i've been on, those people are usually asked to put or shut up regarding their original posts, rather than meandering around or being allowed endless circular debates. Some people think this is harsh moderation, and it can definitely be abused..but I see the reasoning behind it, and in some instances I think it's healthier.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Wed Sep 04, 2013 7:12 am, edited 2 times in total.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby shel » Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:44 am

Sherab Dorje wrote:I was just wondering: if a "black" person went to a white supremacist site and posted views on racial equality would that be considered trolling? What about a unreligious person posting on a religious site?

Dharmagoat is correct: the definition of a troll is always going to be largely subjective. I think it mainly has to do with an attitude of intentional disruption. But even that fails the test of objectivity since the "black" person in the aforementioned examples knows that their views will be disruptive (even if they may be true) since they know that their views will not be welcome. Even if their intention is to educate, they will be perceived to be disruptive.

Excellent example, Sherab Dorje, white supremacists are such a rational crew. :tongue:
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby shel » Wed Sep 04, 2013 8:55 am

dharmagoat wrote:Trolling by definition is unwanted provocation and is therefore entirely subjective. What may be trolling to one person may be witty and/or incisive commentary to another.

Provocation solely for ones own amusement, rather, and having no real interest in the issue of discussion. It's possible for a minority to have no actual interest in equality when engaging ignorant racists, for example, and get them worked up only for the sake of amusement, but that's probably very rare.
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby Seishin » Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:20 am

I'm not sure about trolling as the definition can be debated (see above). But I think having anonymity means we can be someone or something we're not. Sometimes this can be a good thing, such as a shy person being more open and talkative. But it also tends to make people less afraid to be confrontational.

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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby oushi » Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:24 am

You think that people should be afraid?
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby Seishin » Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:43 am

What, no that's not what I said at all! :shrug:
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby oushi » Wed Sep 04, 2013 10:56 am

Seishin wrote: Sometimes this can be a good thing, such as a shy person being more open and talkative. But it also tends to make people less afraid to be confrontational.

So, you think being confrontational is a good or bad thing?
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby Seishin » Wed Sep 04, 2013 11:07 am

It depends on the situation I guess. Personally I prefer discussion over confrontation. :smile:
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby oushi » Wed Sep 04, 2013 11:28 am

And I prefer openness over fear ;) .
Behavior like mine, toward your posts, will be seen by many as trolling. I hand to confront you with what you've said before, to bring clarity into discussion. If you would skilfully avoid answering my questions, after few posts it would be legitimate to call ma a troll. I've seen such a behavior many times before.
People should be allowed the right for confrontation, as long as they are not using ad hominem. I was in such a situation once, and through persistence I debunked false views of my interlocutors. I was directly insulted, and then banned for trolling. 8-)
I remember only one troll that I've ever met. He was really unkind and vulgar. I dedicated him 4 pages on forum, and he appeared to be very intelligent guy with huge knowledge about ancient philosophy. His trolling was a result of constant frustration, because nobody understood him, and nobody cared to even think about his arguments.
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Re: Anonymity and Trolling

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Sep 04, 2013 11:42 am

shel wrote:Excellent example, Sherab Dorje, white supremacists are such a rational crew. :tongue:
Well I guess that makes my other example null and void too given you consider all religious people irrational (or anti-rational).

What about this example then (since you are unwilling to actually address the point I was making and instead focused on an irrelevant detail): a person that likes Datsuns goes to a site dedicated to Fords and starts to inform them about the "objective" qualities of a Datsun which makes them a better car than the Ford. Given the reaction that they will receive and knowing that they will receive that reaction does that make them a troll ? How can you guarantee objectivity when most forums are subject specific?
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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