The Misrepresentation of Digital Teens as Trolls: Considering Political, News and Feminist Agendas
If one pays attention to popular culture and the mass media, Internet trolls are unemployed young men in their 20s at home in their parents’ basement spending their time posting abusive messages online. This study finds that this stereotype, whilst common in the mass media, is not representative of the empirical data collected. The research found that most trolling on blogs and defriending is done by women and because of other women. It finds that the people who troll are unlikely to be youths not in education, employment or training (NEETs), but more likely to be those in wealthy areas who are bored. It equally finds that those who troll, or indeed troll-call, are likely to show the symptoms of antisocial personality disorder and histrionic personality disorder respectively. With the media focussing on represent young people as trolls, the research finds that the existence of benevolent sexism in the police perpetuates this myth, meaning women are getting more favourably treatment, either as trolls or troll-callers. In fact the research finds trolls are as likely to be men or women, and they will change the way they troll based on their target, meaning feminists deemed misandrist will face sexist posts including from women, but the same trolls, regardless of their sex, would have used racist remarks if the feminists calling for more rights for women were Black and calling for more rights for Black people. The research concludes that deterring trolling requires a community-led approach, where local government can use their law enforcement powers, such as to issue fixed penalty notices or anti-social behaviour orders, against those trolls they can prove took part in trolling by using their surveillance rights.
Jonathan Bishop (2015). The Misrepresentation of Digital Teens as Trolls: Considering Political, News and Feminist Agendas. Invited Speech to the 13th International Conference on E-Society (E-Society 2015), Madeira, Portugal, 14-16 March 2015.