As a follow up to yesterday’s post, A Common Sense Approach To Limit Forum Trolling, we thought it would be useful to post some additional resources.
The Crocels Trolling Academy, which promotes an Internet free from cyberbullying is a great place to start. This site contains invaluable resources including tips for handing trolls, research articles on the subject, and relevant information for law enforcement officials.
On a lighter note, we also recommend the Flame Warriors site by Mike Reed. Mike hilariously eloquently defines more than 80 types of “Flame Warriors”.
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.
Debates keep forums interesting, even if longtime users sometimes complain about the repetitive nature of certain topics. (“WTF- another global warming thread!?!?”) Most people are reasonable folk and can be persuaded toward the truth of the matter. If not, they instinctively know enough to “agree to disagree”. Ironically, what’s true to one person is sometimes heresy to another and, often times, the “truth” changes over time. Remember when they thought the world was flat?
Healthy debates are actually a good sign and make up most discussions on a day-to-day basis. However, it is helpful to be prepared for when things spiral out of control. Therefore, Ninja Post works closely with site owners to enforce community rules and keep things civil. As Cosmo Kramer says, “A rule is a rule. And let’s face it. Without rules there’s chaos.” Ninja Post’s dispute resolution services prevent chaos.
We have found that forum disputes tend to fall into four categories:
- Irreconcilable difference of opinion.
- Harmless Trolling.
- Vicious, personal attacks.
- Hate speech.
While some truly awful offenses such as hate speech deserve an instant perma-ban most times users can be warned to play nice, help one another, and respect their point of view. We typically remove individual posts and remind offenders about the expected code of conduct for the forum community as a first course of action.
If the user’s behavior persists and attracts multiple complaints from users in good standing, then it makes sense to ban the user. A forum community is like a family. Family members don’t always have to agree with one another but they must learn to peacefully co-exist. We help site owners to achieve this aim.