Online trolling: Once funny, but now the term meaning is far more sinister

By Dr Evita March

It seems like internet trolling happens everywhere online these days – and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

The British press and Kensington Palace officials have called for an end to the merciless online trolling of Duchesses Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, which reportedly includes racist and sexist content, and even threats.

But what exactly is internet trolling? How do trolls “behave”? Do they intend to harm, or amuse?

READ MORE: How ermpathy can make or break a troll

To find out how people define trolling, we conducted a survey with 379 participants. The results suggest there is a difference in the way the media, the research community and the general public understand trolling.

If we want to reduce abusive online behaviour, let’s start by getting the definition right.

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Which of these cases is trolling?
Consider the comments that appear in the image below:

Without providing any definitions, we asked if this was an example of internet trolling. Of participants, 44 percent said yes, 41 percent said no and 15 percent were unsure.

Now consider this next image:

Of participants, 69 percent said this was an example of internet trolling, 16 percent said no, and 15 percent were unsure.

These two images depict very different online behaviour. The first image depicts mischievous and comical behaviour, where the author perhaps intended to amuse the audience. The second image depicts malicious and antisocial behaviour, where the author may have intended to cause harm.

There was more consensus among participants that the second image depicted trolling. That aligns with a more common definition of internet trolling as destructive and disruptive online behaviour that causes harm to others.

But this definition has only really evolved in more recent years. Previously, internet trolling was defined very differently.

A shifting definition
In 2002, one of the earliest definitions of internet “trolling” described the behaviour as:

luring others online (commonly on discussion forums) into pointless and time-consuming activities.

Trolling often started with a message that was intentionally incorrect, but not overly controversial. By contrast, internet “flaming” described online behaviour with hostile intentions, characterised by profanity, obscenity, and insults that inflict harm to a person or an organisation.

So, modern day definitions of internet trolling seem more consistent with the definition of flaming, rather than the initial definition of trolling.

To highlight this intention to amuse compared to the intention to harm, communication researcher Jonathan Bishop suggested we differentiate between “kudos trolling” to describe trolling for mutual enjoyment and entertainment, and “flame trolling” to describe trolling that is abusive and not intended to be humorous.

How people in our study defined trolling
In our study, which has been accepted to be published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, we recruited 379 participants (60 percent women) to answer an online, anonymous questionnaire where they provided short answer responses to the following questions:

  • how do you define internet trolling?
  • what kind of behaviours constitute internet trolling?

Here are some examples of how participants responded:

  • Where an individual online verbally attacks another individual with intention of offending the other (female, 27)
  • People saying intentionally provocative things on social media with the intent of attacking / causing discomfort or offence (female, 26)
  • Teasing, bullying, joking or making fun of something, someone or a group (male, 29)
  • Deliberately commenting on a post to elicit a desired response, or to purely gratify oneself by emotionally manipulating another (male, 35)

Based on participant responses, we suggest that internet trolling is now more commonly seen as an intentional, malicious online behaviour, rather than a harmless activity for mutual enjoyment.

A word cloud representing how survey participants described trolling behaviours. Image: The Conversation

Researchers use ‘trolling’ as a catch-all
Clearly there are discrepancies in the definition of internet trolling, and this is a problem.

Research does not differentiate between kudos trolling and flame trolling. Some members of the public might still view trolling as a kudos behaviour. For example, one participant in our study said:

Depends which definition you mean. The common definition now, especially as used by the media and within academia, is essentially just a synonym to “asshole”. The better, and classic, definition is someone who speaks from outside the shared paradigm of a community in order to disrupt presuppositions and try to trigger critical thought and awareness (male, 41)

Not only does the definition of trolling differ from researcher to researcher, but there can also be discrepancy between the researcher and the public.

As a term, internet trolling has significantly deviated from its early, 2002 definition and become a catch-all for all antisocial online behaviours. The lack of a uniform definition of internet trolling leaves all research on trolling open to validity concerns, which could leave the behaviour remaining largely unchecked.

We need to agree on the terminology
We propose replacing the catch-all term of trolling with “cyberabuse”.

Cyberbullying, cyberhate and cyberaggression are all different online behaviours with different definitions, but they are often referred to uniformly as “trolling”.

It is time to move away from the term trolling to describe these serious instances of cyberabuse. While it may have been empowering for the public to picture these internet “trolls” as ugly creatures living under the bridge, this imagery may have begun to downplay the seriousness of their online behaviour.

Continuing to use the term trolling, a term that initially described a behaviour that was not intended to harm, could have serious consequences for managing and preventing the behaviour.

Dr Evita March is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Federation University in Australia. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Former Speaker sentenced to 15 years in prison in Indonesia’s e-ID graft case

Former Speaker Setya Novanto (left) attending a hearing at the Jakarta Corruption Court. Image: Dhoni Setiawan/Jakarta Post

By Kharishar Kahfi in Jakarta

The Jakarta Corruption Court judges today sentenced former House of Representatives Speaker Setya Novanto to 15 years in prison after being found guilty of graft.

Reading out the court’s verdict, presiding judge Yanto said the former Golkar Party chairman had been declared guilty of rigging the Rp 5.9 trillion (US$424 million) e-ID project, which reportedly caused Rp 2.3 trillion in state losses.

The court also ordered him to pay Rp 500 million in fines and restitution amounting to the US$7.3 million he obtained in the case.

READ MORE: Is the e-ID mega-scandal the end for slick House Speaker Setya?

Both Setya and prosecutors said they would wait a week before announcing whether they would file an appeal.

Prosecutors had previously demanded a 16-year prison sentence and a Rp 1 billion fine for the defendant for his role in the case, which reportedly caused Rp 2.3 trillion in state losses.

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The antigraft body also rejected Setya’s request for justice collaborator status, as the commission argued that Setya had not provided significant information related to the case.

Prosecutors indicted Setya in the case when he was still Golkar’s faction leader at the House.

Setya becomes the fourth defendant to be found guilty in the case after former Home Ministry senior officials Irman and Sugiharto as well as businessman Andi Agustinus or Andi Narogong.

Kharishar Kahfi is a Jakarta Post journalist.

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MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

PNG mobile revolution about to enter new high-speed cable phase

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: PNG mobile revolution about to enter new high-speed cable phase

Papua New Guinea’s cellphone culture change … 3 million mobile users, says new research. Image: Ourmaninproject

By Scott Waide in Lae

In 2007 when Digicel entered the PNG market, Papua New Guineans realised how much in unnecessary charges they had been paying for mobile and internet services.

Until 2007, the mobile phone monopoly run by a government subsidiary, BeeMobile Communications, forced customers to pay K125 (NZ$45) for a mobile start-up kit which contained a SIM card and K100 in phone credits.

Digicel slashed costs and flooded the market with up to 1 million handsets selling at K30 a piece with free SIM cards.

Over the last 15 years, the implementation of government legislation and regulations have drastically improved the digital landscape in Papua New Guinea.

Research this year conducted by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) puts the figure of internet users in PNG at 960,000.

There are more than 3 million mobile subscribers, which means at least four of 10 people own a mobile phone.

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However, despite 15 years of legislative and regulatory reforms and general improvements, the country still lags behind in ICT infrastructure and the cost of services.

Among highest Asia-Pacific rates
Statistically speaking, Papua New Guineans continue to pay among the highest mobile data rates in the Asia Pacific region.

Three of PNG’s top mobile service providers; Digicel, BMobile Vodafone, and Telikom are the six most expensive service providers in Asia Pacific.

Papua New Guinea’s closest neighbours – Indonesia, New Zealand, Fiji and Australia – are among the top six countries that have the cheapest rates.

Ten years on and Papua New Guineans are on the brink of another phase of development.

The government’s budget policy for 2018 highlights that a new high-speed internet cable funded by the Australian government will be laid from Australia to PNG. It will take 24 months to complete.

This is expected to take care of PNG’s ballooning ICT demands over the next 25 years.

The submarine cable will complement the investments to mobile telephone infrastructure to improve the availability of 3G and 4G services to more Papua New Guineans.

Through community-based programmes, NICTA also has plans to support the expansion of access to high-speed broadband internet connectivity to selected communities.

As Papua New Guinea prepares to host a series of APEC meetings in 2018, the country is under a lot of pressure to live up to expectations as an exemplary player in the region despite its ICT challenges.

Bringing costs down will trigger, improvements in large business activity and SMEs. It is an area of the economy that desperately needs a boost with government help.

Scott Waide is the Lae bureau chief of EMTV News and a former journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation bureau in Port Moresby. He has won several awards for his journalism. EMTV News reports are republished by Asia Pacific Report with permission.

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