It’s the year 2022 and people now turn to devices for human connection. The internet has never been more social and with that constantly growing traffic comes a bounty of wonderful moments of connection… And an all time high population of trolls.Internet trolling is defined as ‘malicious online behavior’ characterized by aggressive or deliberate provocation of others. While this behavior may (debatably) be cathartic for the person trolling communities in anonymity, their presence significantly deteriorates the health and safety of a digital space, and thus its usability.
Publishers big and small suffer equally at the hands of trolls. They’re tech savvy, almost always anonymous, and with an abundance of time on their hands to spread toxicity, they’re a force to be reckoned with. What’s worse? They’re here to stay.
In lieu of surrendering, here are a few troll tactics to look out for and what you can do to skip the toll and protect your peace.
Trolls are obsessive, petulant and persistent. If you’re suddenly up against a horde of trolls, keep in mind it may just be one person, on a mission, using many accounts. Trolls have the time and the tech to overwhelm spaces, dodge bans, and sully the hard earned good vibes of your community. How do I solve it? – Once you’re familiar with a troll’s behaviour, you can spot them in the wild (disguised as a new user) as they start fights or encourage incendiary opinions. These repeat offenders leave hints that point to their identity. Armed with your community tools and data, look out for similar names, emails, avatars, or IP addresses linked to existing bans. Check, confirm and then ban them as many times as it takes.
Hate Speech and Vulgarity
Trolls need attention and offensive language is an easy way to get it. In 2019, approximately a third of the posts that Viafoura moderators came across contained hate speech and/or vulgarity. That’s almost 83 million attempts at being nasty for no reason, so we can at least give trolls credit for being dedicated to their craft… But not good credit, to be sure. How do I solve it? – A ‘banned-word list’ can help limit this particular tactic but some trolls may use a tactic called ‘masking’. Trolls will mask banned words with symbols, vertical spelling, periods, etc. to throw off a simple banned-word list. If you’re not sure what to look for, trust – 0nce u se.e 1t, y0u c4n’t uns33 1t. A more sophisticated, natural language processing AI, like Viafoura’s, can spot masked words and block them with over 90% accuracy.
Bonus tip: Many service providers claim to have AI or automatic moderation, but don’t actually leverage natural language processing or machine learning to understand variations of words and sentence structures. Check in with your moderation provider to make sure your tool can learn as moderators approve or block comments, further training the algorithm, which should be customized to your guidelines.
User to user moderation can be a valuable safety tool but it also has the potential for abuse. Some trolls will use the ‘flagging’ feature to silence or frustrate innocent users. In some cases, the serial flagging may even result in an unfair ban for people that have not violated any guidelines. If a user flags often and most of the content they flag does not violate community guidelines, you may have a troll on your hands.How do I solve it? – Use your data and work with your community. Consider this incentive to be involved with your community and get to know who your positive contributors are. Asking trusted users for their insights and experiences with the suspected troll will help you recognize false-flag reporters on the spot.
Dealing with trolls isn’t always easy and it’s never a fun experience. Unfortunately, they are here to stay and if left unchecked they can turn your digital space into a tumultuous community rife with conflict – definitely not something you want associated with your brand. By equipping ourselves with the proper knowledge, tools and awareness, we can keep trolls at bay and use those same moderating methods to prevent toxic user behaviour from developing even without trolls fuelling the flames.
To learn more about Viafoura’s suite of moderation tools visit https://viafoura.com/content-moderation/.