Trolls who post vicious abuse on Twitter aren’t acting out of malice – they’re just bored, reveals study

 

The trolls who dole out vicious abuse on Twitter aren’t acting out of malice – they’re just bored, the first major study into “cyberbullying” has found.

Dr Claire Hardaker, a linguistics expert at Lancaster University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), studied almost 4,000 online cases involving claims of online “trolling”.

Dr Hardaker analysed abusive messages posted on Facebook and Twitter as part of a survey into the dark side of the internet, which covered internet bullying, hoaxing, grooming and online harassment. Trolling has been cited as a factor in recent cases where schoolchildren have taken their own lives.

Trolls operate out of a feeling of power, amusement, boredom and revenge and thrive on the anonymity which the internet provides, Dr Hardaker found.

Her research, published in the Journal of Language, Aggression and Conflict, identified seven tactics used by trolls to wage psychological warfare on their victims. The methods go beyond mere abuse and are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

The seven “deadly sins” include “Hypocriticising”, “Endangering others by giving dangerous advice,” and “Shocking others by being insensitive about sensitive topics.”

Dr Hardaker said: “Aggression, deception and manipulation are increasingly part of online interaction, yet many users are unaware not only that some of these behaviours exist, but of how destructive and insidious they can be.”

Trolling is not the preserve of the young. Dr Hardaker said: “The image of trolling is that it is mainly the work of young people, but the fact is trolls come from all ages and backgrounds.

“They will use different strategies to trigger the response they want from people. Some of these are a lot sneakier than others. It is not just about personal abuse.

“An incredible amount of time and strategy can be involved in trolling, as my research into the techniques they use highlights.”

She warned that trolling can in some cases develop into more serious behaviour, including cyberharassment and cyberstalking.

Celebrities including the singer Duncan James, who revealed that he received several homophobic messages on Twitter and The Voice judge Jessie J have suffered abuse on social media networks.

Ordinary people often feel intimidated when they become the subject of a trolling war. Dr Hardaker said: “The time-wasting noise of one troll-post is relatively easily ignored, but the noise of hundreds of replies to the troll-post, and complaints about those replies, can entirely drown out the worthwhile content.”

The seven deadly sins of trolling

1: Digressing from the topic at hand, especially onto sensitive topics.

Not necessarily overtly argumentative, this tactic frustrates its targets with its pointlessness and circularity. Digression onto sensitive topics triggers the strongest reactions.

2: Hypocriticising, especially for a fault that the critic then displays.

A simple tactic, often this is pedantic criticism of grammar, spelling or punctuation in a post which itself contains proof-reading errors to provoke exasperated responses from others.

3: Antipathising, by taking up an alienating position, asking pseudo-naïve questions, etc.

This tactic is heavily reliant on deceiving the group it is aimed at and covertly manipulates egos, sensitivities, morals and feelings of guilt, usually to trigger emotional responses. It can also create moral dilemmas.

4: Endangering others by giving dangerous advice, encouraging risky behaviour, etc.

A trolling strategy designed to masquerade as help or advice whilst actually causing harm and/or forcing others to respond to prevent harm. It relies on the target's social responsibility and moral obligation.

5: Shocking others by being insensitive about sensitive topics, explicit about taboo topics, etc.

This appears to succeed mainly due to the strength of feeling provoked by the deeply personal and extraordinarily hurtful nature of the troll's insensitivity. It triggers a desire to retaliate that is stronger than the desire to deny the troll the satisfaction of a response.

6: Aggressing others by insulting, threatening, or otherwise plainly attacking them without (adequate) provocation.

This is open and deliberate aggression without any clear justification with the aim of antagonising its target into retaliating.

7: Cross-posting - sending the same offensive or provocative message to multiple groups then waiting for the response.

The message sent by the troll in this tactic is totally off topic and irrelevant. This deliberately careless 'spamming' tactic can result in potentially thousands of users being inundated with unwanted or irrelevant messages.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Arts and Entertainment
music

News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
Sport
Sergio Aguero prepares for the game
football

Follow the latest events from this Champions League fixture

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
News
i100
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Arts and Entertainment
Sister Cristina Scuccia sings 'Like a Virgin' in Venice
music

Like Madonna, Sister Cristina Scuccia's video is also set in Venice

Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    IT Security Advisor – Permanent – Surrey - £60k-£70k

    £60000 - £70000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    MI Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – £25k-£35k

    £25000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

    IT Support Analyst - London - £22,000

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chel...

    PPC Account Executive

    £25 - 28k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A PPC Account Executive is needed to...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album