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back to article Eggheads crack open web troll brains

People who fire off abuse online tend to be keyboard warriors who lack self-control and are fuelled by vengefulness while protected by cloaks of anonymity. And they're going to cost businesses a ton of cash as they struggle to defend their reputations. This is according to a frankly shocking study published in the current issue …

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Boffin

As somebody who lacks self control

I do fit some of those categories. But sometimes is it absolutely justified because companies will do the reverse.

They will actually astroturf and promote their products which do not deserve promotion and they will manage agressively their image in a not so nice way to present themselves in a better light. Eventually the users of such things find out and leave on their own accord but they still grabbed your money for a while until the person wised up. I mean just look at Amazon, I would place a good bet that a large % of the reviews on there are astroturf fake reviews.

I feel the vengeful hate comments on review boards are just a counter balance to the company astroturfing . And they are useful, if the company is proactive they will remedy the bad experiences which made the person who wrote the review comment negatively. If not they'll just astroturf some more.

Saying this is just another excuse and another weapon to use against people who have some REAL concerns and beef with companies. I was nearly killed by the negligence of a company recently. Yet they spread around that it was me being a hot headed kid who was useless.

Unfortunately for them nobody believed them because a huge number of 'hot headed kids' were going to other places to skydive and their attempts to blacken my reputation on them backfired as it convinced even more people to go else where. Who were again labled hot headed kids.

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@Kenno/Astroturf

> They will actually astroturf and promote their products

> which do not deserve promotion

The trouble is there's know real way to tell astrotrufing from trolling from genuinely held opinions that happen to differ from your own.

I can be sure of this because I happen to genuinely hold beliefs on copyright that seem to radically differ from the majority. I believe in copyright, I believe in creators getting paid and I believe that people who pirate should be discouraged, if necessary by prosecution or disconnection. Now all of you who are itching to get your hands on your keyboards and criticise me for that, stop. That's not the point here. The point is I hold those beliefs because, even though I have a normal salaried job with a pension now, I know something of what life is like for self employed creatives who I believe are as much deserving of a living as anyone else. Anyway, don't comment on those beliefs in this thread, just accept that I genuinely, rightly or wrongly hold them.

Anyway, as I say, holding those beliefs, I have lost count of the number of times I have been labelled a troll or a shill. And people making those accusations are utterly and completely wrong. So from my experience I can tell you confidently that a significant number of the people who are keen to label other posters astroturfers or trolls are unable to tell the difference between that and genuine differences of opinion.

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Meh

People who lack self control

> I do fit some of those categories. But sometimes is it absolutely justified

> because companies will do the reverse.

You seem to be reinforcing this excerpt from the article:

"The main outcome was that of the four traits they tested for, the strongest correlation with cyber-smearing was a belief that ethics are relative and that there is no objective right and wrong:"

Worldwide, these people are called "Hypocrites". In the USA, these people are called "Liberals".

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Anonymous Coward

Re copyrights and liberals..

I don't think that you'll be hard pressed to find people agreeing with the original concept of copyright, which was there to let someone enjoy the fruits of their labour, but put a time limit on it to ensue that that exclusivity eventually ended and benefitted the common good.

The problem is that copyright is no longer used as intended, which then yields all sorts of vigilante rubbish - and, of course, we also have a large contingent of people who think everything should be free but who are typically self serving.

By the way, those "hypocrites" are called "new labour" in the UK. But I digress..

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Duuuuhhhh.....

Duuuhhhhhh..... You're from the USA, right?

In Europe..... ah never mind.

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Meh

1) And just how much did this masterpiece of obviousness cost?

2) does '1' now make me one of the nasties?

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Anonymous Coward

"And just how much did this masterpiece of obviousness cost?"

Ha ha. "Masterpiece of obviousness", like it. What I find strange is that they mention words like impulsivity, but there is no mention of PWD (posting whilst drunk).

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Flame

Recognition at last!

Cool, so I now I know I'm an ethically relativistic, rash, impulsive, vengeful troll when I flame Virgin Media.

<vengeful-troll>

OR MAYB THEY REELY R A BUNCH OF MONEYGRUBBING BASTARDS WHO TREAT US LIKE CA$H COWS AND DONT GIV A SHIT ABOUT TEH QUALITY OF SERVICE THEY ***FAIL*** TO PROVIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

</vengeful-troll>

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Recognition at last!

I've had no problems with Virgin Media, unlike BT. There's a reason I switched...

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Thumb Up

Well done

By the book corporate image management. £££'s well deserved.

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They seem to be concentrating on 'Daily Mail class' commentators. And also discounting commentators in that class who may have genuine grievances with a particular company; but can't afford to play the litigation game. Not to mention competitors playing dirty tricks campaign; in which case any perceived impulsiveness is probably a red herring.

I'm not convinced, frankly. Also, I have no idea what they mean by virtual self. Not am I going to find out in the near future...looks like traffic from the mighty Reg has flattened the Science Direct site.

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WTF?

Have you any idea how big ScienceDirect is? its about on a par with saying El Reg have flattened Microsoft UK, or Tesco

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WTF?

better at discerning these opinions and rhetoric from facts and descriptions?

So, what they are essentially saying is that when you read anything about any product or company you have to be "better at discerning these opinions and rhetoric from facts and descriptions", this then would include;

1) Corporate advertising and "brand" where most of what is said is opinion or rhetoric and contains as close to zero truth as toothless regulators allow

2) Astroturfing by corporate lackeys on internet forums where any attempt to disseminate any real world experience or facts about the product is met by marketing speak, fatuous drivel and the pretence that the poster is a real customer

3) Actual customers (/victims) who are angry thanks to the extreme dissonance between the BS spouted by the corporate and the actual reality, hmm, wonder why they stick the boot in???

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Well said indeed.

This study appears to lump genuine smears (which in my experience are rare) in with people who have genuine grievances but tend to overstate their case or employ course language...as people who have grievances often do (that's human behavior, nothing more).

But even if you lump both types together and call them all "trolls", at the end of the day there is still more truth in what these trolls are spouting online than contained in all of corporate advertising.

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Anonymous Coward

website out

ATM the website for the study is having " techinical difficulties due to unforeseen .. bla bla ..

Great .. one more website that didnt expect the traffic when they published their work...

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Trollface

I don't think they understand the term "troll"

What a troll does is to light the blue touch paper and then step back and giggle.

hee hee.

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Unhappy

Not if you are a corporate.

Then 'troll' means 'anyone who calls out your astroturfing'.

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Unhappy

I'm afraid we've lost that war...

Much like the MSN calls cracking, 'hacking'; they now call flaming, 'trolling'.

@see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14898564

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Facepalm

This is so flawed, I don't know where do I start!

@"Researcher Michael Workman gave personality tests to 193 largely college-educated "social media literate professionals" from across the US and Europe"

193 college-educated social media literate professionals isn't a cross section of the population and it isn't a particularly large sample group.

... meanwhile ... @"The main outcome was that of the four traits they tested for" ... oh great, so they tested just 4 traits.

Talk about a biased and flawed sampling and the outcome they interpret from this is that trolls attack "corporations, rather than trolling individuals."

Well yes some people do indeed attack corporations ... but that isn't the only form of trolling, as we all know, but clearly the journal writers don't (so why do they ignore other forms of trolling?).

Also they fail to separate consumer campaigns against justifiable corporate contempt, which does happen.

As for … "corporate reputation management" … that is basically, propaganda. Corporate reputation management people seek to bias everyone's perception in favour of a corporation just as protesters seek to bias peoples perception out of favour of a corporation. Both are propaganda, one for, one against. (Which incidentally also highlights that shill tactics are inherently part of corporate reputation management, because they would need to use corporate propaganda against protester propaganda).

Anyway this journal isn't analyzing all forms of trolls (as the title of this story implied) its simply focusing on corporate trolling. There are other forms of trolls (such as NPD people who simply delight in learning to manipulate people), so why doesn't this journal group even mention other forms of trolling?

Something doesn't add up about all this, so time to "follow the money" as they say ... This "Computers in Human Behavior" is a journal ... which is sold. So who would buy their journal? Could it be the customers of such a journal are corporations who want to protect their corporate reputations? At which point, bingo, it now starts to makes sense.

Could it be this is a poorly researched journal report just to create something to sell or are they simply poor researchers? Either way, this journal is very flawed.

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Trollface

I agree wholeheartedly...

However, I have voted down your well-written comment because I like to annoy people by trolling.

:-p

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THUMBS UP

buy why bother with the effort of writing so much.

No one really cares.

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"193 college-educated social media literate professionals " are impulsive and prone to mashing the CAPSLOCK key? Doesn't sound very professional.

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ANOTHER 'NOBODY' WITH FLAWED....

research professing an opinion. YAWN!

(hope they didn't get paid for it).

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What do they mean by relative ethics?

Corporations are, by law, built to extract money from people for as littke effort as possible in order to give money to shareholders. Morals and ethics don't come into it. If one person, even one relatively rich person, gets shafted by a corporation the fact they have no option but to deal with it and move on or slag the corporation off on message boards in the hope someone will see has nothing to do with ethics -- it's simply the only option which may help the individual or, at leas, harm the corporation.

Trolling of individuals by individuals, on the other hand, does involve morals/ethics but these people didn't study that because it won't help them get jobs from shitty, exploitative companies whose customers are pissed off.

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Trollface

Computers in Human Excrement more like.

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Anonymous Coward

Ho hum

I was going to take this little gem apart. But, well, it's so full of obvious bias (even for someone who's not versed in statistics, like me) that there's no point at all. If you want to make fun of it, knock yourself out. Just be sure to get the math right, eh.

Instead I'll counter this illustration of poor science with another illustration. There was this social sciences egghead over in the Netherlands with brilliant studies like "eating meat makes you an asshole" who then --and this happened quite recently-- turned out to've faked all the data in numerous of his (co-)publications. It was just all made up.

And, you know, none of his peers had noticed. Not for years.

The sad thing is that this sort of social sciences brilliance keeps on raking in the dosh. Bad enough if it's taxpayers', worse if it's corporates utilising this to legitimise their poor service, or something to that tune. I mean, really now. If someone happens to have poor impulse control, does that mean his grievances are automatically based in "misinformation"? It makes about as much sense as asserting that marketeering departments will never lie (because, you know, there's laws against that).

So if I may I'll predict that this "service to society" is actually not going to improve the lot of the masses any.

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@AC - Ho Hum

The problem with basing research on real data is

a) collecting real data is expensive

b) it might not fit the model you are being paid to prove, or hoping to be paid for if you can prove.

never let reality get in the way of a good theory.

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Anonymous Coward

Well done..

.. but your point 1 is actually less relevant. A sufficiently large collection of information is actually helpful because you can bend the conclusion towards what you want by making the math so complicated that nobody will even try to check it.

That is in principle the technique used in the UK speed camera study. If you have over 50% of a document committed to an explanation of the maths involved you know something stinks. The problem is that that document still underpins a lot of government decisions, so the impact of that little bit of fraud has by now reached almost incalculable values.

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Methinks the "researcher" should learn the difference ...

... between trolling on teh IntraWebTubes[tm] and being a corporate or political gadfly.

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Trolling?

Interesting article, shame the study was done by a group that doesn't know what trolling is or the reasons people do it. Trolling is hardly ever aimed at corporations, trolls are looking for instant gratification and the easiest way to get that is to go after people who make comments. Fanbois and moral crusaders are by far the best targets for this, twisting their beliefs by making outrageously false statements, in an air of superiority and in as demeaning a manner as possible.

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Facepalm

What's so wrong with ethical relativism?

"The main outcome was that of the four traits they tested for, the strongest correlation with cyber-smearing was a belief that ethics are relative and that there is no objective right and wrong"

Ethics are always subjective and in my opinion anyone who views the world in a purely black and white, right and wrong manner is incredibly suspect.

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That's a false dichotomy. You don't have to be a nihilist to agree that there are shades of grey.

Being always right, which trolls usually are, is much more suspect than having a rigid view of right and wrong.

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I agree there's nothing wrong with ethical relativism per se, but lots of people misuse it. They seem to think that it means that they are always right and anything can be justified. That's not how it works, but people who don't want to spend more than 2 seconds thinking about the ethics of their actions can make mistakes in this sense. The typical internet troll doesn't even spend 2 seconds thinking about what they're writing, let alone whether it's right to do so.

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FAIL

Reputation management?

I wonder why if a company provides good products/service, it would need to hire someone to manage the company reputation?

For me, if I know a company has hired one of these bottom feeders (reputation managment companies), I take it as a big stay away warning.

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Now I come to think about it...just hitting the 'comment' button is an impulsive act. Any comment button anywhere for any reason.

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Penny Arcade summed this up...

...with their "Greater Internet F*ckwad Theory" strip.

http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/3/19/

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Yet more bad science

So they looked at 193 people, of which some small fraction were 'trolls', and then conclude based on their analyses of this small subset of a tiny sample that they can calculate a "statistically significant interaction". Sigh.

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Joke

I dont shout, I just hAVE PROBLEM WITH THE Caps lock key being too close to the letter "A" ON MY NETBOOKS KEYBOard.

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Joke

Trolling pedants is easy

Trolling is a art.

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Anonymous Coward

This is a fucking stupid story!

Who pays these bloody scientists? Call this journalism? My 2 year old could write a better article! FFS! I'm cancelling my subscription.

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Mushroom

Starting at the wrong end

This study is just another piece of PC reinforcement of the status quo

It takes no account of the huge frustration to individual human beings of having to deal with automaton like corporates who can never be in the wrong.

Corporates and Governments view is generally that if human beings (customers, voters etc) don't like what happened it was

- they don't understand

- they didn't listen to us

- we didn't explain it to them in small enough words (the nearest thing you get to an admission of culpability)

- it was a contractor so nothing to do with us

- it was some bloke what doesn't work for us any more/has been retrained

Sure there's trolling for the sake of it but it's mostly political based - most of the anti-corporate stuff is rooted in truly frustrating experiences in dealing with corporate robots who just want you to STFU and hand over your wallet.

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Anonymous Coward

What a load of biased drivell! Researchers are only good for fire wood!

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But did they check http://www.fatchicksinpartyhats.com/ ?

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