If… like me you’ve been on the internet for a long time, since the first days of AOL in the UK early 90’s in fact, and partaken in internet communities of any kind, you will have definitely come across internet trolls, whether you knew it at the time or not. The latest incarnation to hit the headlines is the “Stumbletroll” from the popular Stumbleupon network, but as I said on another blog a week or so ago, a troll is a troll, or is it?
Most of these are usually sad lonely people, often with lots of personal problems, and far too much time spent at a computer warping their realities. They feed on others emotions and play games to try and get people to bite.There are however another breed of trolls, uber-trolls of a very different sort.
Most trolls thrive on winding up good people and will pick on specific people on forums or the net and just say anything that is required to get their response, whether they believe it or not.
They’ll throw out their lines baited with outrageous statements, racist, religious (or anti) sexist, or what-have-you and wait to see who bites.
This is trolling v1.0. troll-tactics ..apparently trolling v2.0 is a different thing altogether.
I was randomly chatting to someone I met the other night at length about this, who is an active member of one of the groups I am going to describe, and obviously wants to remain anonymous.
“there are whole underground groups of intelligent individuals who use secret meeting boards to organise plan and laugh about our activities outside of it. Our average age is 28, with ages ranging from 21 to mid 40’s..”
He also maintained that they are actually a surpisingly ethical bunch in some ways and generally go to great lengths to make sure that potential victims thoroughly select themselves.
In my experience on the internet this would always seem to be fairly easy, as much like when driving a car, people suddenly become much braver, in the safety of their own space, and will say things and behave on the internet they would never dream of saying in person. He said that the self-selecting victims were always given “escape routes” all through the process whereby they could back down and preserve face, along with heavy hints all along the way, and that if they were just step back from their monitor induced rage for a moment, it would be very clear to most.
“…we are an international group, from 9 countries, of relatively intelligent, accomplished people in the real world, mostly good jobs, some with ex miltary and ex police experience, and a lot of experience in life generally, but we all share in common a dark sense of humour and a love of watching the warped parts of people’s true personalities show themselves online…”
He continued on, that they attempt to take the previous definition of “strategic trolling” to new levels and have been known to set up whole fake forums and back-up websites run by themselves to lure in anyone stupid enough to fall for it. Apparently martial arts forums are often the easiest pickings
“…they are mostly full of stupid gullible kids who are ready to fight anybody over an internet dispute at the drop of a hat, or older and more sinister types who hang around these places trying to extend their youth and impress people with their half truths and exagerations.”
Exactly what their gratification for this type of behaviour is exactly I couldnt really understand from him but at one point he stated:
” ..we will go to what others may see as extreme lengths to setup stings, but you have to remember we are a highly skilled bunch with an excellent range of interpersonal and technical skills and can more or less orchestrate whatever we need to make it happen quickly and effortlessly.
…You also have to remember the nature of the internet and some of the unsavoury charactors on it, we are just enablers, making it possible or even easy, for people’s true natures to show themselves, and what people are never ready for is that internet moment when it all suddenly turns from internet to real” ..the adrenaline drop is just as powerful as if you were suddenly placed in severe danger and it can be a very sobering experience. Its a powerful kind of psychological warfare, and so you have to be very careful to let people bring it to you, rather than pick on innocents. We take our ethical repsonsibilities pretty seriously, considering some of the way-out stuff we get up to.”
He told me about a recent operation by another group known only as “The ACA” who recently embarassed the self styled “Martial Arts Police” forum “Bullshido” http://www.bullshido.net who are known for publicly harassing suspected Martial Arts frauds with their “investigations” and having challenge matches to prove who is right.
He finished the conversation with this:
“there is a certain justice in this to us, if people are stupid enough or macho bravado enough to drop everything and travel across the country to fight people they have only ever met on the internet, then they should be goaded into it at every opportunity until they learn their lesson. Of course there will be no fight, the troll opponent will never be there.
It is better for them that its us trolling them, than a real psycho who may shoot them when they turn up. We’re just trying to help people learn lessons the easy way mostly…”
In these days of predators stalking the internet, groups like these could well evolve into early warning systems to lure potential offenders to expose themselves (pardon the pun) before they get too far down their dark paths.
It certainly made me think about trolling in a whole new light apart from how I had previously seen these people (below) He almost made it out to be an artform.
The more usual type of trolling nuisance are now being addressed by certain technical programs such as Cave your Trolls which allow forum and blog owners to let the trolls continue their rantings, but unknown to them, they are hidden to everyone else, which is an amusing option because the troll is then by definition only trolling himself, and wasting only his own time.
But I very much doubt that would be much use against the new breed of super trolls to whom the web merely is one big playground with endless opportunities for amusement.
Ultimately arguments on the internet are still usually more like this.. 🙂