g&m - maybe it's time to muzzle the trolls?
Old 06-07-2010, 03:13 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Maybe it's time to muzzle the trolls - The Globe and Mail

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It’s no surprise to anyone at this point that the Internet seethes with examples of people behaving badly. Psychologists even have a name for it: the online disinhibition effect, the result of a medium that encourages speed over reflection, and frequently goes hand-in-hand with anonymity and a lack of real consequences for bad behaviour.
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Detractors rail about the death of democracy. I understand the argument: Anonymous forums allow people to voice their feelings more freely than the classroom or the water cooler. Few people will take a stand on a divisive, complicated issue like abortion or pornography if they think their social standing will be marred as a result.

But, after the thrill of the implications of uncensored comments wear off (It will enable Erin Brockovich-like corporate takedowns! It will expose corruption in high places! ...Wait, isn’t that what media outlets are for?), it becomes clear that, most of the time, a lack of censorship results in an absurd decline in discourse.
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It’s not just the tone of comments sections that suffers. Writers stop reading feedback, eroding a valuable connection to their readership. Worse, potential subjects become reluctant to be interviewed, knowing the jackals are waiting for the kill. “Reporters say increasing numbers are expressing regret they co-operated for stories that resulted in vicious anonymous attacks,” Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander recently wrote.
Quote:
Fortunately, it seems to be dawning on people that democracy doesn’t solely mean that everyone gets a say. It also means that the public has a say in your say. Many comment-moderating systems are beginning to let readers vote comments up or down, with low-scoring posts sinking to the bottom of the pile, out of immediate sight. Popular website Gawker has a two-tiered system that rewards what they and their readership consider quality commenters: Posts from people in the second tier are hidden but available to any reader.

In the end, all the fuss about protecting free speech is a bit overblown. There’s nothing stopping anyone from starting a blog dedicated to their specific brand of vitriol. Of course, if you’re reading this online, the space below is the perfect place to prove me wrong. Or right, as the case may be.

online disinhibition effect:

Online disinhibition effect - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The core concept of the online disinhibition effect refers to a loosening (or complete abandonment) of social restrictions and inhibitions that would otherwise be present in normal face-to-face interaction during interactions with others on the Internet.

Because of the loss of inhibition, some users may exhibit benign tendencies; people may become more affectionate, more willing to open up to others, less guarded about their emotions and may speak to others about what they are feeling in an attempt to achieve emotional catharsis. According to Suler[1], this particular occurrence is called benign disinhibition.

With respect to bad behavior, users on the Internet can frequently do or say as they wish without fear of any kind of meaningful reprisal – in most Internet forums, the worst kind of punishment one can receive for bad behavior is usually being banned from a particular site. In practice, however, this serves little use; the person involved can usually circumvent the ban by simply registering another username and continuing the same behavior as before. Suler[1] calls this toxic disinhibition.
Quote:
Suler names six primary factors behind why people sometimes act radically different on the internet than when they do in normal face-to-face situations:

You Don't Know Me
Core Concept: Dissociative anonymity
The notion of "You Don't Know Me" comes down to simple anonymity: when you're anonymous, it provides a sense of protection; within the framework of the Internet, this allows the user to move about without any kind of indication of identity or even distinguishing characteristics other than potentially a username. This kind of protection can provide a meaningful release for people in that they feel free to say things they might otherwise be embarrassed to, but by the same token, it also provides an outlet for behaviors that others might term antisocial or harmful.

You Can't See Me
Core Concept: Invisibility
The Internet provides a shield to its users; often all one receives when interacting with another person on the Internet is a username or pseudonym that may or may not have anything to do with the real person behind the keyboard. This allows for misrepresentation of a person's true self; online a male can pose as a female and vice versa, for example. Additionally, the invisibility of the Internet prohibits people from reading standard social cues; small changes in facial expression, tone of voice, aversion of eyes, etc., all have specific connotations in normal face-to-face interaction.

This particular aspect overlaps heavily with anonymity, because the two often share attributes. However, even if one's identity is known and anonymity is removed from the equation, the inability to physically see the person on the other end causes one's inhibitions to be lowered. One can't be physically seen on the Internet, typically – therefore, the need to concern oneself with appearance and tone of voice is dramatically lowered and sometimes absent.

See You Later
Core Concept: Asynchronicity
The asynchronous nature of the Internet can also affect a person's inhibitions. On internet message boards, conversations do not happen in real time; it could be as short as a few minutes to the next post but it could also be an extraordinarily long time as well. Because of this, it's easier for someone to "throw their opinions out" and then leave; a person can make a single post that might be considered very personal, emotionally charged, or inflammatory and then "run away" by simply not logging in again. In this way, the person achieves catharsis by "voicing" their feelings, even if the audience is just as invisible.

However, the asynchronous nature of the Internet also allows a person to more closely examine what they say and to more carefully choose their words; in this manner, someone who might otherwise have difficulty in face-to-face interactions can suddenly seem eloquent and well-mannered when reading message board posts or even in text-chat forums such as IRC or instant messaging.

It's All in My Head
Core Concept: Solipsistic Introjection
Lacking any kind of visual face-to-face cues, the human mind will assign characteristics and traits to a "person" in interactions on the internet. Reading another person's message may insert imagined images of what a person looks like or sounds like into the mind, and mentally assigns an identity to these things. The mind will associate traits to a user according to our own desires, needs, and wishes – traits that the real person might not actually have.

Additionally, this allows fantasies to be played out in the mind, because the user may construct an elaborate system of emotions, memories, and images – inserting the user and the person they are interacting with into a role-play that helps reinforce the "reality" of the person on the other end within the mind of the user.

It's Just a Game
Core Concept: Dissociative Imagination
By combining solipsistic introjection with the imagination, a feeling of escapism is produced – a way to throw off mundane concerns to address a specific need without having to worry about consequences. According to Suler's[1] personal discussion with lawyer Emily Finch (a criminal lawyer studying identity theft in cyberspace), Finch's observation is that people may see cyberspace as a kind of game where the normal rules of everyday interaction don't apply to them. In this way, the user is able to dissociate their online persona from the offline reality, effectively enabling that person to don that persona or shed it whenever they wish simply by logging on or off.

We're Equals
Core Concept: Minimizing Authority
Online, a person's status may not be known to others and often, this lack of hierarchy causes changes in interactions with others. If people can't see the user, others have no way to know if the user is an on-duty police officer, head of state, or some kind of "ordinary" person hanging out in their den on their computer. While real-world status may have a small effect on one's status on the Internet, it rarely has any true bearing. Instead, things such as communication skill, quality of ideas, persistence, and technical ability determine one's status in cyberspace.[1]

Additionally, people can be reluctant to speak their minds in front of an authority figure. Fear of reprisal or disapproval quashes the desire to speak out, and on the Internet, levels of authority that might otherwise be present in real life are often completely absent; this turns what might otherwise be a superior-inferior relationship into a relationship of equals – and people are far more likely to speak their mind to an equal than a superior.
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Old 06-08-2010, 12:54 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm sure there's no one like that here.
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Old 06-08-2010, 01:33 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I love that they actually paid people a lot of cash to put that article out.

Common sense 101.

Love it, and to be honest, its a great article.
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Old 06-08-2010, 08:02 PM   #4 (permalink)
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That's a pretty terrific article ...
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Old 06-08-2010, 09:42 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I figured the G&M comments section would be full of snobs, not trolls.
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