Online Trolling: The Case of Madeleine McCann
John Synnott, Andria Coulias, Maria Ioannou
Despite the sustained media attention surrounding internet trolling, academic studies investigating its occurrence are rare. This study aimed to provide a case study analysis of the behaviours and strategies of a group of alleged Twitter trolls referred to as the anti-McCanns due to their continual abuse of Kate and Gerry McCann as well as those who support them and thus identify as pro-McCann. The way in which language was used to construct the anti-McCanns group identity, enhance in-group cohesion and facilitate out-group disassociation from the pro-Mccann group was additionally explored, given that previous research has implicated group processes in the propagation of aggressive online conduct. A multi-method approach involving a combination of ethnographic observations and the collection of online commentary was employed. The data was then analysed using quantitative content analysis and discourse analysis, which indicated that language was utilised in a variety of ways by the anti-McCanns to construct a salient group identity and negatively stereotype and disassociate from the pro-McCann group. Findings additionally revealed that several strategies were employed by the anti-McCann trolls to provoke and derogate members of the pro-McCann group, supporting previous findings which have linked trolling to both western media culture and the characteristics of anti-social personality disorder. The implications of these findings both theoretical and practical are discussed, alongside recommendations for future research.
John Synnott, Andria Coulias, Maria Ioannou (2017). Online Trolling: The Case of Madeleine McCann. Computers in Human Behavior.
Brain–Computer Interface–Based Communication in the Completely Locked-In State
Ujwal Chaudhary , Bin Xia, Stefano Silvoni, Leonardo G. Cohen & Niels Birbaumer
Despite partial success, communication has remained impossible for persons suffering from complete motor paralysis but intact cognitive and emotional processing, a state called complete locked-in state (CLIS). Based on a motor learning theoretical context and on the failure of neuroelectric brain–computer interface (BCI) communication attempts in CLIS, we here report BCI communication using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) and an implicit attentional processing procedure. Four patients suffering from advanced amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)—two of them in permanent CLIS and two entering the CLIS without reliable means of communication—learned to answer personal questions with known answers and open questions all requiring a “yes” or “no” thought using frontocentral oxygenation changes measured with fNIRS. Three patients completed more than 46 sessions spread over several weeks, and one patient (patient W) completed 20 sessions. Online fNIRS classification of personal questions with known answers and open questions using linear support vector machine (SVM) resulted in an above-chance-level correct response rate over 70%. Electroencephalographic oscillations and electrooculographic signals did not exceed the chance-level threshold for correct communication despite occasional differences between the physiological signals representing a “yes” or “no” response. However, electroencephalogram (EEG) changes in the theta-frequency band correlated with inferior communication performance, probably because of decreased vigilance and attention. If replicated with ALS patients in CLIS, these positive results could indicate the first step towards abolition of complete locked-in states, at least for ALS.
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Chaudhary U, Xia B, Silvoni S, Cohen LG, Birbaumer N (2017) Brain–Computer Interface–Based Communication in the Completely Locked-In State. PLoS Biol 15(1)
Trolling the trolls: Online forum users constructions of the nature and properties of trolling
Bryn Alexander Coles & Melanie West
Trolling’ refers to a specific type of malicious online behaviour, intended to disrupt interactions, aggravate interactional partners and lure them into fruitless argumentation. However, as with other categories, both ‘troll’ and ‘trolling’ may have multiple, inconsistent and incompatible meanings, depending upon the context in which the term is used and the aims of the person using the term. Drawing data from 14 online fora and newspaper comment threads, this paper explores how online users mobilise and make use of the term ‘troll’. Data was analysed from a discursive psychological perspective. Four repertoires describing trolls were identified in posters online messages: 1) that trolls are easily identifiable, 2) nostalgia, 3) vigilantism and 4) that trolls are nasty. Analysis also revealed that despite repertoire 01, identifying trolls is not a simple and straight-forward task. Similarly to any other rhetorical category, there are tensions inherent in posters accounts of nature and acceptability of trolling. Neither the category ‘troll’ nor the action of ‘trolling’ has a single, fixed meaning. Either action may be presented as desirable or undesirable, depending upon the aims of the poster at the time of posting.
Bryn Alexander Coles & Melanie West, M. (2016). Trolling the trolls: Online forum users constructions of the nature and properties of trolling. Computers in Human Behavior, 60, 233-244. Available at: http://resources.crocels.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/trolling-the-trolls.pdf
The Blasé Nature of Retraction Watch’s Editorial Policies and the Risk to Sinking Journalistic Standards
Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva
Retraction Watch is a distinctly anti-science blog whose primary objective is to smear scientists who hold errors or retractions to their names. Self-appointed watchdogs, Dr. Ivan Oransky and Dr. Adam Marcus lead this profitable charity, which is falsely projected as an “aid-science” project. Claiming to represent the highest standards of science journalism, Oransky and Marcus oversee – with very hawkish eyes – a small team of journalists, who are in charge of researching cases and reporting them. On average, one can observe roughly one blog post every two days in recent months. This indicates that the research required to complete each story takes place under strain, and may thus involve errors. Scientists are very familiar with errors, and there are strict guidelines in dealing with them during the publication process. In science publishing, the process is somewhat bureaucratic and a formal request must be made to the journal and publisher, usually through the editor-in-chief, and a carefully vetted and worded erratum, or corrigendum, is then published. Retraction Watch’s Oransky and Marcus hold scientists to extremely high standards, and anything less than perfection is subjected to ridicule on their blog. Yet, what happens when Retraction Watch errs? This letter aims to highlight a single recent case study in which highly observant readers of a Retraction Watch story pointed out errors in the title and possible ambiguities. Rather than issuing a formal retraction of their old title, or a formal correction (erratum), the Retraction Watch leadership simply changed the title, and even though it was “loosely” acknowledged by Retraction Watch staff as “Fixed, thanks!” in the comment section, this attitude is blasé, and the method of correction is unsatisfactory and unprofessional. Scientists must hold Retraction Watch accountable for their errors, and any unprofessionally processed story, or correction, must be publicly exposed, to increase accountability. The Retraction Watch web-page, and thus its parent organization, The Center for Scientific Integrity, is receiving hundreds of thousands of US$ from at least one philanthropic organization, in support of its anti-science rhetoric, and thus the individuals that make up Retraction Watch must be held accountable for their occasionally poorly vetted and unscrutinized journalistic practices.
Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva (2016). The Blasé Nature of Retraction Watch’s Editorial Policies and the Risk to Sinking Journalistic Standards. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences 7 (6).
This paper is available from the Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences in PDF or HTML format.
Which personality traits are related to traditional bullying and cyberbullying? A study with the Big Five, Dark Triad and sadism
Mitch van Geel, Anouk Goemans, Fatih Toprak & Paul Vedder
Studies have shown that both Big Five and Dark Triad (Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy) personality traits are related to traditional bullying and cyberbullying behaviors in adolescents as well as in adults. Increasingly, scholars call for sadism as an addition to the Dark Triad in the study of antisocial and delinquent behaviors. In the current study we analyze whether the Big Five, Dark Triad and sadism predict traditional bullying and cyberbullying. The sample consisted of 1568 participants (61.9% female), ranging in age from 16 to 21 years. Using hierarchical linear regression analyses, controlling for age and gender, it was found that agreeableness, Machiavellianism, psychopathy and sadism were significantly related to traditional bullying, and agreeableness and sadism were related to cyberbullying. Taken together, the results more firmly establish that sadism could be a predictor of antisocial behaviors, by establishing its relations with bullying and cyberbullying.
Mitch van Geel, Anouk Goemans, Fatih Toprak & Paul Vedder (2016). Which personality traits are related to traditional bullying and cyberbullying? A study with the Big Five, Dark Triad and sadism. Personality and Individual Differences.
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“Trolling is not stupid”: Internet trolling as the art of deception serving entertainment
This paper aims to distill the essence of Internet trolling, a prevalent intercultural online communicative phenomenon which appears in many forms and guises. However, the label “trolling” tends to be (mis)used in reference to communicative practices which are not trolling in the traditional sense. It is argued that trolling necessarily relies on deception performed in multi-party interactions, which is conducive to (humorous) entertainment of self and/or other participants, at the expense of the deceived target. Taking data from email communications of the “DontEvenReply” troll, this account not only draws on the literature addressing the focal phenomenon but also integrates findings from several other fields of investigation (the philosophy of deception, humor theory, and the pragmatics of interaction) in order to demystify trolling.
Marta Dynel (2016).”Trolling is not stupid”: Internet trolling as the art of deception serving entertainment. Intercultural Pragmatics 13 (3), 353–381.
The impact of physical and virtual environments on human emotions: A pilot study in an adult and community education setting
Jonathan Bishop and Piet Kommers
This paper concerns an experiment that attempts to understand the impact the physical and virtual environment can have on human emotions. To do this four blended learning workshops are held covering different amounts of technology enhanced learning based on the blended learning continuum. In each workshop there are two of the same participants – one who is autistic and one who is empathic – and then other participants are introduced depending on the aesthetics of the workshop. The study finds that learners deemed ‘empathic’ require less brain processing for befriending than people deemed ‘autistic’ do and that those deemed autistic treat every environment the same way and at the same time those deemed ‘empathic’ focus more on befriending others, regardless of the environment they are in.
Jonathan Bishop (2016). The impact of physical and virtual environments on human emotions: A pilot study in an adult and community education setting. The 14th International Conference on Scientific Computing. 25-28 July 2016. Las Vegas, NV. Available online: http://resources.crocels.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/the-impact-of-virtual-and-physical-environments-on-human-emotion.pdf
How to treat the troll? An empirical analysis of
counterproductive online behavior, personality traits
and organizational behavior
Maik Grothe, Henning Staar & Monique Janneck
Online environments, such as social networks and online forums, offer new possibilities and a wide variety of identity and social relationship management for the users. However, besides functional contributions like mutual support and easy ways of establishing contacts there are critical perspectives on computer-mediated communication (CMC) regarding detrimental behavior like provoking, overbearing, attacking and insulting other users, especially when anonymity is high. So far, research on trolling and counterproductive online behavior has been limited to theoretical or anecdotal approaches in most cases (cf. Bishop, 2013a, 2013b). Our study aimed at a more systematic examination of this CMCspecific phenomenon. However, our study design, acquisition of the samples and the formulation of the questionnaire suggest that the results are valid indeed. On that note, our research is a first step for a deeper understanding on people showing counterproductive online behavior.
Maik Grothe, Henning Staar & Monique Janneck (2016). How to treat the troll? An empirical analysis of counterproductive online behavior, personality traits and organizational behavior. Proceedings of IFKAD 2016. 15-17 June 2016.
“Real men don’t hate women”: Twitter rape threats and group identity
Claire Hardaker and Mark McGlashan
On 24th July 2013, feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez’s petition to the Bank of England to have Elizabeth Fry’s image on the UK’s £5 note replaced with the image of another woman was successful. The petition challenged the Bank of England’s original plan to replace Fry with Winston Churchill, which would have meant that no woman aside from the Queen would be represented on any UK banknote. Following this, Criado-Perez was subjected to ongoing misogynistic abuse on Twitter, a microblogging social network, including threats of rape and death. This paper investigates this increasingly prominent phenomenon of rape threats made via social networks. Specifically, we investigate the sustained period of abuse directed towards the Twitter account of feminist campaigner and journalist, Caroline Criado-Perez. We then turn our attention to the formation of online discourse communities as they respond to and participate in forms of extreme online misogyny on Twitter. We take a corpus of 76,275 tweets collected during a three month period in which the events occurred (July to September 2013), which comprises 912,901 words. We then employ an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of language in the context of this social network. Our approach combines quantitative approaches from the fields of corpus linguistics to detect emerging discourse communities, and then qualitative approaches from discourse analysis to analyse how these communities construct their identities.
Claire Hardake and Mark McGlashan (2016). “Real men don’t hate women”: Twitter rape threats and group identity. Journal of Pragmatics 91 (2016), pp.80–93
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Academics’ Responses to Encountered Information: Context Matters
Shelia Pontis, Genovefa Kefalidou, Ann Blandford, Jamie Forth, Stephann Makri, Sarah Sharples, Geraint Wiggins & Mel Woods
An increasing number of tools are being developed to help academics interact with information, but little is known about the benefits of those tools for their users. This study evaluated academics’ receptiveness to information proposed by a mobile app, the SerenA Notebook: information that is based in their inferred interests but does not relate directly to a prior recognized need. The evaluated app aimed at creating the experience of serendipitous encounters: generating ideas and inspiring thoughts, and potentially triggering follow‐up actions, by providing users with information related to their work and leisure interests in the form of suggestions. We studied how 20 academics interacted with messages sent by the mobile app at a rate of 3 per day over ten consecutive days. Collected data sets were analyzed using thematic analysis. We found that contextual factors (location, activity and focus) strongly influenced academics’ responses to messages. Academics described some unsolicited information as interesting but irrelevant when they could not make immediate use of it. They highlighted filtering information as their major struggle rather than finding information. Some messages that were positively received acted as reminders of activities participants were meant to be doing but were postponing, or were relevant to ongoing activities at the time the information was received.
Shelia Pontis, Genovefa Kefalidou, Ann Blandford, Jamie Forth, Stephann Makri, Sarah Sharples, Geraint Wiggins & Mel Woods (2015). Academics’ Responses to Encountered Information: Context Matters. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 67 (8), pp. 1883-1903. Available at: http://resources.crocels.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/academics-responses-to-encountered-information-context-matters.pdf