Several years ago, the NY Times published an in-depth report about internet trolls, The Trolls Among Us. The article focuses on the exploits of trolls from 4chan.org,’s infamous /b/ board but also recaps the history of trolling, defines the word “lulz” (among other terms), and the serious consequences that sometimes result from cyberbullying and online harassment.
A few years later, the NY Times posted a similar article: In Small Towns, Gossip Moves to the Web, and Turns Vicious. This article reports the popularity of Topix, a message board popular in rural America. While Topix boards were created as sources for local news, the article reports they also serve healthy doses of unsubstantiated and often hurtful gossip.
Both platforms, 4chan.org and Topix, provide a completely anonymous environment for posters. Not even a valid email address is required in most cases. Complete anonymity offers benefits to whistleblowers and other dogooders. However, such anonymity is a double-edged sword and one reason why user behavior on these platforms can become inappropriate at times.
At the same time, we know from experimenting with Facebook Connect and similar services that even the prospect of allowing users to go by their real life name and identity makes them uncomfortable and less likely to participate.
Therefore, with Ninja Post, we set out to strike a good balance to limit trolling but maximize participation. We allow users to select a pseudonym or “handle” of their own choosing and we ask them to provide a valid email address. This handle is to be reused whenever the user is on the forum. We know a determined troll can easily meet these requirements. Therefore, we go a step further. We help site owners prepare a welcome message to new users so they understand the community norms and that certain behavior is not tolerated. This approach has kept our forums civil, relatively fair, and inviting to those who are respectful. If a user does act out, we have mechanisms in place to flag and remove abusive content, and either warn or ban the user.