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Atlantic Article about forum trolling in the future


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https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/03/guys-its-time-for-some-troll-theory/521046/

I know we complain here about (over) moderation, but one reason many of us have stuck it out here all these years despite the awful software etc., is that at least things here do not get as vicious as many / most other discussion forums.  Not an ideal solutuion but there are not that many others.

Edited by Pamela Galli
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Moderation is a difficult idea for me.  I understand that some moderation is needed in any environment, but there is a line between picking out actual abuse and feeling abused because of a differing of opinion.  Teaching people to recognize when someone is trolling for emotional response and then giving them tools to deal with it might be a better idea than just reporting and having posts deleted because a person doesn't like what another says. 

We cannot really control what other people do, but we can learn to control our own responses to the bait set out.  I recommend completely ignoring the bait.  Just pretend the person never typed out their response.  The virtual eye roll is a favorite of mine and works well with ignoring. You can also just repeat the same  response over and over until the troll gets bored.  "OK" "OK" "OK" "OK" "OK" "OK" "OK" "OK" 

These techniques only work when it is a person behind the trolling.  When bots get involved, the best bet is probably finding a moderator.

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Most of the forums I frequent are engineering related and well behaved. The worst stuff I see is in the comments sections of news stories.

The anonymity and democratization of the Internet acts simultaneously as amplifier and megaphone for our individual stupidity. Add herd mentality into that and it gets pretty toxic. One of the more interesting revelations in the story you posted was the algorithmic work that predicts trolling behavior. Will such tools eventually be used to silence that behavior?

The Internet, via connecting us all to it, has turned the entire population of the the world into unwitting lab rats. It has also, via the computing resources required to run it, provided researchers with the most powerful analysis tools ever imagined. I don't know which of the sword's double edges is going to cut the fastest here, the one that cuts off our heads or one that cuts out the cancer.

We live in interesting times, Pamela.

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8 minutes ago, Cinnamon Mistwood said:

Moderation is a difficult idea for me.  I understand that some moderation is needed in any environment, but there is a line between picking out actual abuse and feeling abused because of a differing of opinion.  Teaching people to recognize when someone is trolling for emotional response and then giving them tools to deal with it might be a better idea than just reporting and having posts deleted because a person doesn't like what another says. 

We cannot really control what other people do, but we can learn to control our own responses to the bait set out.  I recommend completely ignoring the bait.  Just pretend the person never typed out their response.  The virtual eye roll is a favorite of mine and works well with ignoring. You can also just repeat the same  response over and over until the troll gets bored.  "OK" "OK" "OK" "OK" "OK" "OK" "OK" "OK" 

These techniques only work when it is a person behind the trolling.  When bots get involved, the best bet is probably finding a moderator.

I think we actually can exert control what other people do, and I also think some people can't control their responses to bait set out. For that reason, we need sensible limits on behavior and tools for holding people accountable for their actions. We also need ways to help those who can't help themselves. As people who behave rather well and can survive bad behavior, we may not quite grasp what it's like to be either a transgressor or a victim.

Some think that market forces will sort it all out, with Facebook, Google and others losing ad dollars if they don't do the right thing.

I wonder.

Edited by Madelaine McMasters
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3 minutes ago, Madelaine McMasters said:

I think we actually can exert control what other people do, and I also think some people can't control their responses to bait set out. For that reason, we need sensible limits on behavior and tools for holding people accountable for their actions. We also need ways to help those who can't help themselves. As people who behave rather well and can survive bad behavior, we may not quite grasp what it's like to be either a transgressor or a victim.

Some think that market forces will sort it all out, with Facebook, Google and others losing ad dollars if they don't do the right thing.

I wonder.

Yeah, but....

Do we censor people because someone else might not be able to control themselves?

"sensible limits on behavior"  Where someone else decides what is sensible?  You just took 5 years off my life and caused about 100 gray hairs to sprout out of my head.

"Tools for holding people accountable for their actions"  I can get behind something like this, but people have to be willing to use the tools

"we may not quite grasp what it's like to be either a transgressor or a victim"  I'll give you this one.  While I am a softie in relation to people getting picked on, some people refuse to play any other part.  I hate the idea of leaving these people to their fates, but I am not sure it is possible to convince them to see their situations differently.

I am a believer in corralling alternative facts and people that flat out lie/slander.  What do you then do with extreme biased news or alternative medicine or antiscience news?  I have no answer other than more education.  I am not convinced that market forces will sort it all out.

 

PS This thread has the potential to get locked so  IBTL

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5 minutes ago, Cinnamon Mistwood said:

Yeah, but....

Do we censor people because someone else might not be able to control themselves?

"sensible limits on behavior"  Where someone else decides what is sensible?  You just took 5 years off my life and caused about 100 gray hairs to sprout out of my head.

"Tools for holding people accountable for their actions"  I can get behind something like this, but people have to be willing to use the tools

"we may not quite grasp what it's like to be either a transgressor or a victim"  I'll give you this one.  While I am a softie in relation to people getting picked on, some people refuse to play any other part.  I hate the idea of leaving these people to their fates, but I am not sure it is possible to convince them to see their situations differently.

I am a believer in corralling alternative facts and people that flat out lie/slander.  What do you then do with extreme biased news or alternative medicine or antiscience news?  I have no answer other than more education.  I am not convinced that market forces will sort it all out.

 

PS This thread has the potential to get locked so  IBTL

Someone is always deciding what's sensible, aren't they? Walmart limits what goes on their shelves. Governments write limits (laws). We'll always be arguing/discussing those limits. That's fine. What's different about the Internet is that it upsets the hierarchy of decision making by convincing everyone they're experts. If you think micromanagement is a bad idea, or that democracy is a good one, bring 7.5 billion anonymous ignorant people to the table. I don't know if we've faced anything like this before. It looks like one hell of a challenge.

I'm a softy for true victims. I've little patience for those that play the part. If only I could tell the difference.

I don't think we'll get locked. I have faith in us.

;-).

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I am reading Thomas Friedman's book, Thank You for Being Late, a very important, insightful guide to living in a time of increasingly accelerated change. One of his points is that things like the algorithms mentioned in the article are pretty inevitably going to be used in place of humans, and probably produce much more consistent, reasonable results than those of our current human overlords. (Sorry overlords, that is just how things roll these days. ) Which could be a good thing if the article's predictions about how trolling is trending are true. Yes, at the cost of freedom of expression -- but most of us here have figured out where the line is here and self censored to mostly stay on the right side of it. I think an algorithm has the potential to at least be consistent. 

 

 

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8 minutes ago, Pamela Galli said:

I am reading Thomas Friedman's book, Thank You for Being Late, a very important, insightful guide to living in a time of increasingly accelerated change. One of his points is that things like the algorithms mentioned in the article are pretty inevitably going to be used in place of humans, and probably produce much more consistent, reasonable results than those of our current human overlords. (Sorry overlords, that is just how things roll these days. ) Which could be a good thing if the article's predictions about how trolling is trending are true. Yes, at the cost of freedom of expression -- but most of us here have figured out where the line is here and self censored to mostly stay on the right side of it. I think an algorithm has the potential to at least be consistent.

Before the rosy glow of Friedman's optimism over upcoming algorithmic overlords warms you up, read this...

http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2016/10/207759-battling-algorithmic-bias/fulltext

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6 hours ago, Madelaine McMasters said:

Before the rosy glow of Friedman's optimism over upcoming algorithmic overlords warms you up, read this...

http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2016/10/207759-battling-algorithmic-bias/fulltext

The book is billed as optimistic, because of all the amazing opportunities for good, but as with algorithms, things could also go south. But if forums like this one are around in five years, moderation will no doubt be automated.

and yes, it is unmoderated discussion forums that are the worst troll magnets. Blender forums are perfectly fine. 

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13 minutes ago, Pamela Galli said:

The book is billed as optimistic, because of all the amazing opportunities for good, but as with algorithms, things could also go south. But if forums like this one are around in five years, moderation will no doubt be automated.

and yes, it is unmoderated discussion forums that are the worst troll magnets. Blender forums are perfectly fine. 

I am actually optimistic about all this. The fact that we're already identifying algorithmic bias (and the positive research feedback loops they create) gives me hope that we'll be able to watchdog ourselves. There's going to be growing pain, but that's been true for all of human history.

Although I'm an optimist, I'm also a huge fan of the irony that often results from the law of unintended consequences. That irony has been fueling a renaissance in late night comedy, and I think the Internet and coming wave of AI will keep the humorists busy long after the politicians have returned to gridlock.

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Friedman also gives a pretty clear and in depth explanation for how we wound up with gridlock, and now worse than gridlock, and of course it all has to do with the breakneck speed of various accelerations. It is something I have intuited from knowing some Trumpetiers, without really having the kind of data Friedman presents. The data nails it down. There are great new opportunities -- but only for those who are motivated to look for them. And it wasn't immigrants who took peoples jobs.

This book is certainly the crowning achievement of his career. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/books/review/thomas-friedman-thank-you-for-being-late.html?_r=0

Edited by Pamela Galli
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29 minutes ago, Pamela Galli said:

Friedman also gives a pretty clear and in depth explanation for how we wound up with gridlock, and now worse than gridlock, and of course it all has to do with the breakneck speed of various accelerations. It is something I have intuited from knowing some Trumpetiers, without really having the kind of data Friedman presents. The data nails it down. There are great new opportunities -- but only for those who are motivated to look for them. And it wasn't immigrants who took peoples jobs.

This book is certainly the crowning achievement of his career. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/books/review/thomas-friedman-thank-you-for-being-late.html?_r=0

I put it on my reading list.

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I'm currently reading Dave Eggers' The Circle. The book is scary and I suggest everyone read it. A movie based on it is coming out but I'm not sure how close to the book they will remain.

One concept from it has actually been suggested. That's that you have one sign in identity for the Internet. Your bank and credit information is linked for you to use, though not searchable by others. You can't be anonymous on forums or make anonymous comment under a sock puppet. Sounds reasonable, to a point. 

The reason trolls can get away with stuff is that they are saying things they'd never say if people knew who they actually were. 

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2 hours ago, Bobbie Faulds said:

I'm currently reading Dave Eggers' The Circle. The book is scary and I suggest everyone read it. A movie based on it is coming out but I'm not sure how close to the book they will remain.

One concept from it has actually been suggested. That's that you have one sign in identity for the Internet. Your bank and credit information is linked for you to use, though not searchable by others. You can't be anonymous on forums or make anonymous comment under a sock puppet. Sounds reasonable, to a point. 

The reason trolls can get away with stuff is that they are saying things they'd never say if people knew who they actually were. 

I may be anticipating plot points in the book, but the problem with eliminating anonymity from the Internet is that it squelches valid rebellion. Imagine if whistleblowers or dissidents of authoritarian societies could not communicate anonymously. Also, the history of trying to keep aggregated information private suggests that "not searchable by others" is a fantasy, particularly when some of those others are system insiders. This central authority, which knows everybody, is fertile ground for authoritarian control.

I prefer the semi-chaotic system we have right now. Anonymity is too important to lose because of trolls.

I'll recommend "Minority Report" as another interesting take on this subject.

Edited by Madelaine McMasters
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7 hours ago, Bobbie Faulds said:

The reason trolls can get away with stuff is that they are saying things they'd never say if people knew who they actually were. 

That's not entirely true. I've seen plenty of situations where someone was clearing trolling, face to face, mic in hand. Just watch YouTube for a couple hours. Search for "asking people questions on the street".

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5 hours ago, Madelaine McMasters said:

I may be anticipating plot points in the book, but the problem with eliminating anonymity from the Internet is that it squelches valid rebellion. Imagine if whistleblowers or dissidents of authoritarian societies could not communicate anonymously. Also, the history of trying to keep aggregated information private suggests that "not searchable by others" is a fantasy, particularly when some of those others are system insiders. This central authority, which knows everybody, is fertile ground for authoritarian control.

I prefer the semi-chaotic system we have right now. Anonymity is too important to lose because of trolls.

I'll recommend "Minority Report" as another interesting take on this subject.

That is part of the point of the book. There is a movie coming out with Emma Watson. I actually have to stop reading from time to time because it gets intense. I was just mentioning that I'd seen an article that I can't find not suggesting the universal ID on the net. It's definitely dystopian.

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